Microsoft's Steve Ballmer Says Android Isn't Free

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.

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • back_by_demand
    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.
  • ssddx
    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 ...
  • randomizer
    Are the patent infringement claims being made against Android itself or the proprietary additions included by the phone manufacturers?
  • jojesa
    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.

  • ceteras
  • hoofhearted
    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.
  • 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.
  • ares1214
    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...
  • nice image to accompany it with
  • *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.