Update: Microsoft sues Motorola over Android phones
IDG News Service -
Microsoft filed patent infringement complaints against Motorola and its Android phones in the International Trade Commission and U.S. federal court Friday, indicating that the software giant may hope to use its strong patent position as one way to set its mobile software apart from the competition.
Microsoft said that Motorola's Android phones infringe nine patents, including some that would appear to threaten most smartphone platforms. Android is the open source OS built by Microsoft rival Google.
The patents appear to include some related to Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, which syncs e-mail, calendar and contacts between a mobile phone and a software-based computer program, according to a blog post written by Horacio Gutierrez, general counsel at Microsoft.
Other patents involve technology that displays signal strength and battery power on phones.
While Google licenses Microsoft's ActiveSync for use in Android, Microsoft may plan to argue that handset makers that add their own technologies to Android also need a license for ActiveSync, said Chris Hazelton, an analyst with The 451 Group. Motorola does add its own enhancements to Android phones.
"Motorola, of the major Android supporters, is the only one that doesn't license ActiveSync themselves," Hazelton said. HTC, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Dell and others all license ActiveSync, he said.
Microsoft could also be using the lawsuit as a way to pressure Motorola into building phones using Windows Phone 7, Microsoft's new phone operating system, Hazelton said. Though Motorola made phones using Microsoft's operating systems in the past, it now says it is committed to Android.
Motorola may have been unwilling to license ActiveSync because it can be expensive, Hazelton said. "This is not a small amount of money. We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars," he said. Motorola, which is about to split up into several companies, has been struggling over the past few years.
Microsoft may have other motives for filing the lawsuit beyond potential revenue. "They're trying to slow down Android," said Jack Gold, an analyst with J. Gold Associates. "That's for good reason. Look at the charts: Android's momentum is killer."
Gartner expects Android to become the second-largest smartphone platform by 2012, behind only Symbian.
"That scares the traditional players who have invested in this market for years," Hazelton said. "That is compelling Microsoft to say, 'How do we combat this? We'll make it costly and risky to people who are considering going with Android.'"
Microsoft said it was acting to protect its intellectual property investments, and noted that Nokia and other vendors have also filed lawsuits over smartphone technologies. Microsoft has "a responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard the billions of dollars we invest each year in bringing innovative software products and services to market," the company said.
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