Microsoft's lawyers try to do what its technology can't --- kill Android

Microsoft's suit today against Motorola isn't aimed at Motorola --- it's aimed straight at trying to kill off Android. Microsoft is clearly hoping that its lawyers can do what its technology hasn't been able to do: Figure out a way to stop Android in its tracks, and get traction for Windows Phone 7.

The suit claims that Motorola Android devices, such as the top-selling Droid X and Droid 2, infringe on nine Microsoft patents. These patents are at the very core of Android. Here's how Microsoft described the patents in a statement about the suit:

The patents at issue relate to a range of functionality embodied in Motorola's Android smartphone devices that are essential to the smartphone user experience, including synchronizing email, calendars and contacts, scheduling meetings, and notifying applications of changes in signal strength and battery power.

It's not clear why the suit is filed against Motorola rather than Google, given that Google created the Android operating system. Also not clear is why Microsoft is suing only Motorola, because other Android devices sync data as well. Perhaps more suits are in the offing.

Android is already under attack via other suits, including an Apple suit against HTC, which has countersued. Oracle has also sued Gooogle over the use of Java in Android.

Anyone who thinks the Microsoft suit is purely a legal matter is mistaken. After all, Motorola's Android phones have been around for a while -- and this suit comes just before Microsoft is about to publicly show off Windows Phone 7 for the first time. Coincidence? I think not.

There's no doubt that Microsoft isn't particularly pleased with Motorola overall, because Motorola in the past was a big licensee of Windows Mobile. Today, Motorola has bet big on Android, and it's paying off. 

In addition, Microsoft has been beating the drum against Android in a big way, even warning phone makers that they should go with Windows Phone 7 rather than Android, because then Microsoft would indemnify them against lawsuits.

Microsoft has been telling phone makers that it costs phone makers more to deploy Android on a phone than it costs to deploy Windows Phone 7. One of the reasons Microsoft cited is that if you deploy Windows Phone 7, Microsoft will indemnify you against lawsuits. And now here Microsoft is, suing Motorola. Coincidence? Again, I don't think so.

In the long run, though, technology, not lawyers, will decide who wins the mobile wars. If it were up to me, I'd muffle the lawyers, and let the best smartphone win.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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