Microsoft, ASUS sign combined Android patent, Office bundling deal

Is Microsoft making Office software and services part of its Android-patent-licensing negotiation terms? A new deal between Microsoft and ASUS makes it seem like it might be.

I'm starting to wonder whether Microsoft has a new strategy when it comes to signing patent deals with Android/Linux/Chrome OS device makers.

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On October 1, Microsoft announced it had signed an "expanded" patent-licensing deal with ASUSTek Computer Inc. (aka ASUS). The updated deal covers ASUS' Android-based phones and software.

As nearly two-dozen Android, Chrome OS and Linux vendors are doing, ASUS seemingly is licensing Microsoft's patents to cover anything that is in those operating systems which potentially infringes on Microsoft's intellectual property.

But ASUS also is agreeing, as part of the deal announced today, to pre-install unspecified Microsoft "productivity services" on Android smartphones and tablets. When I asked, a Microsoft spokesperson said the services included the Microsoft Office suite.

This deal sounds very much like what happened between Microsoft and Samsung earlier this year, though in Samsung's case, it was a two-stepped move. Samsung and Microsoft settled their patent dispute over Android patent licensingin February 2015, with the two declining to comment in any way on the terms. Then, in May 2015, Samsung became one of 11 Android device makers to agree to bundle Microsoft Office software and related services on their Android tablets.

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Since May, Microsoft has expanded the pool of regional and international OEMs agreeing to preload Microsoft software and services to more than 30.

I asked Microsoft what kind of patent deal it had in place with ASUS originally, as I could not find reference to it. As far as I can tell, ASUS didn't have an Android-related patent deal with Microsoft -- at least based on this list of the known Microsoft Android/Chrome OS/Linux deals from FOSS Patents. ASUS was part of a group of Android handset makers, along with Google, that were sued in 2013 by the Rockstar patent consortium -- owned by Microsoft, Apple, BlackBerry Ericcson and Sony -- for patent infringement.

A Microsoft spokesperson said there was a preexisting patent agreement between the two companies that was never made public but which did not involve Android.

Earlier this week, Microsoft signed its latest expanded Android patent deal with I-O Data.

Just yesterday, Microsoft and Google announced a blanket settlement of 20 outstanding patent lawsuits. Neither Microsoft nor Google would comment on the terms of the deal, leaving a number of industry watchers wondering whether there might be some kind of other shoe left to drop.

Though it seems highly doubtful Google would preload Microsoft software or services on any of its devices, maybe Google will start making apps that work on Windows and Windows Phone? These days with Microsoft, I'll never say never, when it comes to potential partners and deals....

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