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Microsoft's Steve Ballmer Says Android Isn't Free

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 83 comments

It might be free from Google, but it's not free from Microsoft.

Windows Phone 7 is nearly here, and it'll be facing some very stiff competition. As smartphones become increasingly mainstream with the iPhone and Android, Microsoft hopes to offer something that'll pull people away from those camps.

The iPhone will have its loyal fanbase inside Apple's walled garden, while Android caters more to those who like openness and freedom. Android also has the advantage of being free for handset makers to use – something Windows Phone 7 cannot claim the same.

If you ask Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer though, Android isn't really free. Handset makers can use the Android mobile OS for free, but there's always the chance that Microsoft will come to collect on some patent rights.

HTC learned about this when Microsoft sued it over the use of patents from Android. Rather than going after Google, Microsoft is targeting specific phone makers for the licensing fee.

Ballmer said to the Wall Street Journal, "Android has a patent fee. It's not like Android's free. You do have to license patents. HTC's signed a license with us and you're going to see license fees clearly for Android as well as for Windows."

Microsoft last week went after Motorola for similar reasons. Only time will tell how this will affect the continued adoption of Android.

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Top Comments
  • 28 Hide
    ares1214 , October 5, 2010 12:13 PM
    Dont worry, Apple will soon sue MS for using metal that melts, claiming MS was using liquid metal, MS will sue Apple for having an OS, Apple sues Google for having a better OS, then Microsoft sues Google for being cheaper, then Google sues Microsoft for having Bing, then Bing Sues Yahoo for its nonsense, then Google sues Microsoft for sueing them, and Apple sues everybody for breathing air, which they just put a patent on. These suits and patents are nonsense and are completely destroying things...
  • 26 Hide
    ssddx , October 5, 2010 11:23 AM
    MS is using such patents as an incentive to "go with us and not them." The reason MS doesnt outright try to challenge google is... they probably have the same amount of lawyers... it would be ugly and drawn out.

    How hilarious would it be when the win7-phone comes out....if google has a patent or two to stick up MS's ...
  • 23 Hide
    Aussie_Bear , October 5, 2010 1:19 PM
    This is the same strategy that Ballmer has used against commercial Linux providers...And it has worked; as they settle with Microsoft! MS is making money via the screwed-up US Patent system.

    (1) Microsoft cannot compete with free. Their fundamental business model is selling software licenses. It is their primary cash-cow! They are willing to use ANY means to gain leverage over competitors; preferably one that makes THEM money.

    (2) Linux is free (liberty and most often, beer); but the license its under does not protect it from a flawed patent system.

    There is no protection for you, if you happen to accidentally trample on someone's patent. The best you can do is NOT settle; but to ask for what specific patent you have infringed, so you can code around it. (That is legal, as you have a right to know. And you don't have to pay a dime in settlement)...If you had money and time to go through the legal system; the accusing party must prove the patent is legit. If they can't...It'll be invalidated.

    (3) Knowing this weakness, Microsoft will "extort" anyone who uses Linux in a commercial setting.

    The patents don't have to be legitimately court tested; just the fear of patent infringement is enough! (Some real ones can be used if the other side has a known competent legal team.)

    That is, go after folks who sell a Linux-based commercial product like a smartphone (as in the case of Android) OR as a software package (such as Novell, etc)...Interestingly, Red Hat and Canonical told MS to "get lost"; as they recognize this is nothing more than an empty patent threat.

    The point of extorting commercial solutions based on Linux with patent threats is to devalue the key characteristic of Linux: Being that its free. This is the focus of Ballmer's strategy.

    Such threats also show Microsoft is nothing more than you modern day software mafia...

    => "Say...That's a nice solution. Android, is it? You should be careful with that. Why? Well, these days, Software Patents can be a problem if you use Android. On the other hand, if you sign up with us...You'll be protected from litigation. Why not play it safe, eh? We have Windows Phone 7 coming up, why not sign up to our product?"

    As for Ballmer's HTC comment...HTC had no choice because they use both MS and Linux-based products. They were caught in a two-way tag team. Microsoft and Apple were going to sue them. So they settle with MS, such that they can focus on Apple. See the following...
    => http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2010/03/apple-vs-htc-a-proxy-fight-over-android-could-last-years.ars
    => http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2010/04/htc-avoids-two-front-patent-war-with-microsoft-pact.ars

    The only way to crap on Ballmer's parade is to intentionally create solutions that de-value Microsoft's key/core cash-cows via open source.

    But instead of selling software licenses like they do, you sell support contracts and keep your solution completely open source and under GPLv3. (They won't touch you, because they don't like version 3 of the GPL.)

    I guess in today's software industry, it goes like this:
    => Those who can; do.
    => Those who can't; sue.

    ...Thanks to the screwed-up US Patent system.
Other Comments
  • 5 Hide
    back_by_demand , October 5, 2010 11:13 AM
    Interesting, Android has some MS patents in it, so if you use it on a mobile phone you have to enter a license agreement with MS.

    So HTC knew this and signed the agreement without any fuss and Motorola didn't?

    Seems pretty clear cut to me.
  • 26 Hide
    ssddx , October 5, 2010 11:23 AM
    MS is using such patents as an incentive to "go with us and not them." The reason MS doesnt outright try to challenge google is... they probably have the same amount of lawyers... it would be ugly and drawn out.

    How hilarious would it be when the win7-phone comes out....if google has a patent or two to stick up MS's ...
  • 16 Hide
    randomizer , October 5, 2010 11:31 AM
    Are the patent infringement claims being made against Android itself or the proprietary additions included by the phone manufacturers?
  • 6 Hide
    jojesa , October 5, 2010 11:33 AM
    Quote:
    Rather than going after Google, Microsoft is targeting specific phone makers for the licensing fee.

    Google is not selling the Android OS, so Micro$oft cannot go after them for ca$h.
    We have heard that tune many times from Microsoft (especially if you follow Linux distros).
    Microsoft have some many dubious patents, that even to send and receive emails with mobile phone you have to pay Microsoft license fees.



  • 19 Hide
    ceteras , October 5, 2010 11:57 AM
    Disgusting.
  • 19 Hide
    hoofhearted , October 5, 2010 12:00 PM
    I was actually looking forward to the Windows phone because of its gaming factor. Well, this changes that. To me this seems like a form of extortion. Now if Microsoft truly "creates" something of their own merit, then I say they deserve the market, but I see this as Microsoft "destroying" something that they fear as competition and I hope they burn for it.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , October 5, 2010 12:01 PM
    I have always said Open source is just a advantage for hardware companies to make more profit. They abuse the Open Source ideal. I don't like the Apple ideal either of keeping everything in control . Who wants to be married to one company? But that's what you get with Android too. No matter if you use RIM, Apple, Android or Microsoft phones. You end up in a ecosystem of their own applications. It just depends on what fits you.
  • 28 Hide
    ares1214 , October 5, 2010 12:13 PM
    Dont worry, Apple will soon sue MS for using metal that melts, claiming MS was using liquid metal, MS will sue Apple for having an OS, Apple sues Google for having a better OS, then Microsoft sues Google for being cheaper, then Google sues Microsoft for having Bing, then Bing Sues Yahoo for its nonsense, then Google sues Microsoft for sueing them, and Apple sues everybody for breathing air, which they just put a patent on. These suits and patents are nonsense and are completely destroying things...
  • 9 Hide
    Anonymous , October 5, 2010 12:14 PM
    nice image to accompany it with
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , October 5, 2010 12:16 PM
    *yawn* Windows7 mobile will die off like Courier and Kin. There's nothing new with Windows7 mobile that the existing mobile OS already has. MS is late in catching the train and it's disappearing over the horizon. Ballmer will be gone next year as well. Too man failed projects.
  • -3 Hide
    aaron88_7 , October 5, 2010 12:19 PM
    In other words Ballmer is so desperate to keep his job after destroying the largest tech company in the world that he is going to try to sue his way back into profitability. Good luck with that one.

    Why is this fat idiot still running Microsoft? Don't Microsoft shareholders pay attention to how this guy has been running this company into the ground?
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , October 5, 2010 12:57 PM
    It's not free because MS has resumed its "if you can't win sue" strategy. I guess WM7 really sucks if this is their mobile strategy
  • 8 Hide
    back_by_demand , October 5, 2010 12:59 PM
    aaron88_7In other words Ballmer is so desperate to keep his job after destroying the largest tech company in the world that he is going to try to sue his way back into profitability. Good luck with that one.Why is this fat idiot still running Microsoft? Don't Microsoft shareholders pay attention to how this guy has been running this company into the ground?

    Yeah, run right into the ground
    Microsoft stock is now trading alongside junk bonds
    ...
    WTF have you been smoking?
  • -1 Hide
    mike8472 , October 5, 2010 1:03 PM
    Man, I hate Microsoft ...
  • 9 Hide
    bamslang , October 5, 2010 1:04 PM
    Awesome... more lawsuits to drive innovation. I see Microsoft is taking a page out of Jobs' playbook.
  • 8 Hide
    iolas , October 5, 2010 1:06 PM
    It's time for patents and copyrights to go the way of the caveman.
  • 23 Hide
    Aussie_Bear , October 5, 2010 1:19 PM
    This is the same strategy that Ballmer has used against commercial Linux providers...And it has worked; as they settle with Microsoft! MS is making money via the screwed-up US Patent system.

    (1) Microsoft cannot compete with free. Their fundamental business model is selling software licenses. It is their primary cash-cow! They are willing to use ANY means to gain leverage over competitors; preferably one that makes THEM money.

    (2) Linux is free (liberty and most often, beer); but the license its under does not protect it from a flawed patent system.

    There is no protection for you, if you happen to accidentally trample on someone's patent. The best you can do is NOT settle; but to ask for what specific patent you have infringed, so you can code around it. (That is legal, as you have a right to know. And you don't have to pay a dime in settlement)...If you had money and time to go through the legal system; the accusing party must prove the patent is legit. If they can't...It'll be invalidated.

    (3) Knowing this weakness, Microsoft will "extort" anyone who uses Linux in a commercial setting.

    The patents don't have to be legitimately court tested; just the fear of patent infringement is enough! (Some real ones can be used if the other side has a known competent legal team.)

    That is, go after folks who sell a Linux-based commercial product like a smartphone (as in the case of Android) OR as a software package (such as Novell, etc)...Interestingly, Red Hat and Canonical told MS to "get lost"; as they recognize this is nothing more than an empty patent threat.

    The point of extorting commercial solutions based on Linux with patent threats is to devalue the key characteristic of Linux: Being that its free. This is the focus of Ballmer's strategy.

    Such threats also show Microsoft is nothing more than you modern day software mafia...

    => "Say...That's a nice solution. Android, is it? You should be careful with that. Why? Well, these days, Software Patents can be a problem if you use Android. On the other hand, if you sign up with us...You'll be protected from litigation. Why not play it safe, eh? We have Windows Phone 7 coming up, why not sign up to our product?"

    As for Ballmer's HTC comment...HTC had no choice because they use both MS and Linux-based products. They were caught in a two-way tag team. Microsoft and Apple were going to sue them. So they settle with MS, such that they can focus on Apple. See the following...
    => http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2010/03/apple-vs-htc-a-proxy-fight-over-android-could-last-years.ars
    => http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2010/04/htc-avoids-two-front-patent-war-with-microsoft-pact.ars

    The only way to crap on Ballmer's parade is to intentionally create solutions that de-value Microsoft's key/core cash-cows via open source.

    But instead of selling software licenses like they do, you sell support contracts and keep your solution completely open source and under GPLv3. (They won't touch you, because they don't like version 3 of the GPL.)

    I guess in today's software industry, it goes like this:
    => Those who can; do.
    => Those who can't; sue.

    ...Thanks to the screwed-up US Patent system.
  • 4 Hide
    kikireeki , October 5, 2010 1:19 PM
    And that is supposed to make us fall in love with Windows Phone 7 !
  • 6 Hide
    belardo , October 5, 2010 1:20 PM
    More reason to NOT buy Microsoft products, when possible.... No Windows phone for me.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , October 5, 2010 1:35 PM
    So let me get this straight: Steve Balmer who promised the previous mobile phone incarnation KiN, and previous promises of fabulous Microsoft-based tablet PCs with partners such as HP, is now promising an entirely NEW tablet design "ready for the holiday (2010) season" ...??? Well - let's just see about that. Balmer's balsy comments should be held accountable by Microsoft's shareholders and ridiculed by the tech and computing community if no such product(s) come to fruition. This guy is a classic snake oil salesman - what a loud mouthed goof. If only Bill Gates minimized his time jumping on planes and traveling the world in support of his charities, maybe he would have a chance to realize that the castle he built is being thrown into disarray. What a joke.
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