Microsoft claims Google's Android operating system violates Windows patents, but growing third-party license fees may lessen the sting.
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Microsoft has added several vendors to the list of electronics manufacturers that are paying it licensing fees for using Google's Android operating system and/or Linux in their products. The company has long-claimed that Linux and Android, a Linux derivative, violates Windows patents, and in the past has threatened to sue alleged infringers that don't pay up.
Sharp has licensed Microsoft's exFAT file system for use in its Android tablets, Sigma and NexttoDi have licensed it for their high-end cameras, and Black Magic and Atomos Global have licensed the file system for their broadcast-quality video recording devices, Microsoft said Wednesday. Sharp earlier this month said it's on pace to lose $5.6 billion this year, and that it may not survive.
ExFAT (Extended File Allocation Table) is a file system that is designed to accommodate large, multimedia files on Flash drives.
"Today's agreements demonstrates the continued success of our licensing program and highlights the adoption of exFAT across multiple industries and many product offerings," said David Kaefer, general manager for Intellectual Property Licensing at Microsoft, in a statement.
Microsoft's IP licensing program is likely generating significant revenue for the company, although it does not break out specific figures. Industry analyst Rob Enderle, of the Enderle Group, estimates that Redmond receives $15 for every licensed Android device sold. Android is the leading smartphone operating system, and the number two tablet OS. Microsoft has claimed that it has inked licensing deals with over half of all Android device makers.
Electronics manufacturers that have previously struck licensing deals with Microsoft to cover their use of Linux or Android in their products include Barnes & Noble, Casio, Samsung, LG, Fuji-Xerox, HTC, Acer and ViewSonic. "The unique capabilities of exFAT allow licensees to tailor their products to evolving markets while also meeting the changing needs of their customers," said Kaefer.
The big question is whether Microsoft will eventually go after Google directly for Android fees, or sue the company if it doesn't pay up. The two tech giants are already set to square off in federal court in Seattle next week over Microsoft's claim that Google's Motorola unit is refusing to make certain mobility technologies it holds patents on available on reasonable terms.
Not everyone is convinced that it would be in Microsoft's best interest to sue Google directly over Android. First off, such a contest would be lengthy and expensive, and Microsoft could lose. And, "as long as Microsoft is making money from all these third-party sales, it might just decide to leave Google alone," said Enderle.
Microsoft launched its IP licensing program in 2003. Since then, it has signed more than 1,100 deals.