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.