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9/9/2011
00:21 AM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
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Microsoft Strikes Deal With Acer, Viewsonic On Android

Viewsonic's license agreement includes Chrome, suggests that operating system may be up for its own legal challenges.

Microsoft, continuing to earn revenue from an operating system it doesn't own, has struck a deal with both Acer and Viewsonic that will permit the two phonemakers to continue selling Android-based phones. If either of the two is sued over the patents in question, Microsoft will step up and defend its intellectual property.

According to AllThingsD, the deal with Acer deals only with Android. The Viewsonic deal, however, covers both Android and Chrome OS. That means the Chrome OS platform may have some legal issues of its own to contend with.

The terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but ZDNet said involves royalty payments from the two companies. Microsoft inked a deal with HTC in early 2010 for $5 per Android device sold. The software giant is also pursuing a deal with Samsung, which is thought to be $15 per device.

Microsoft and Apple are both targeting Android devicemakers and it threatens to change the landscape of the mobile market. When planning to build a phone, paying $5-$10 to license a platform like Windows Phone doesn't look too appealing, compared with paying nothing to license Android. Google doesn't charge anything for its platform, expecting instead to generate revenue from mobile advertising. Given that Android is the largest smartphone platform, it's looking like a smart strategy.

These patent infringement issues, though, change the financial picture. Given recent court rulings and signed royalty agreements, it seems pretty clear Android is infringing on some patents. Now the decision is paying Microsoft $5-10 for Windows Phone now, or potentially some indeterminate fee, along with nice payments to the corporate lawyers, down the line.

Google could clear all of this up and enter into a broad licensing agreement with Apple and Microsoft, thus shielding companies using its platform.

Until that happens, expect these lawsuits to continue. At least Microsoft seems to be ok with accepting royalty payments. Apple seems more willing to just halt the sales of competitive devices.

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