Reality check: Microsoft charging vendors a $15 patent fee per Android device?

Summary:I'm thinking the alleged $15 per Android device per year patent licensing fee Microsoft is said to be seeking from Samsung is the Softies' saber-rattling price. Here's why.

There's a report making the rounds, spurred by a July 6 story in South Korea's Maeil Business Newspaper,  claiming Microsoft is seeking to charge Samsung $15 per Android device to cover patented technology owned by Microsoft.

I'm thinking this amount is probably Microsoft's saber-rattling price -- the one meant to scare Android vendors into signing onto the growing list of Android OEMs who've decided it's safer to settle than fight Microsoft over its IP claims. It's definitely a lot higher than the $5 per device that one analyst claimed Microsoft is getting from Android phone vendors like HTC who've agreed to pay Microsoft for patent coverage.

Barnes & Noble, one of the few Android vendors that has decided to take its licensing battle with Microsoft public, mentioned Microsoft's tactics in its answer to Microsoft's complaint over the Android-based Nook. From my blog post from April regarding the B&N response:

“Microsoft nevertheless maintained that it possessed patents sufficient to dominate and entirely preclude the use of the Android Operating System by the Nook,” according to the (B&N) complaint. “Microsoft demanded an exorbitant royalty (on a per device basis) for a license to its patent portfolio for the Nook device and at the end of the meeting Microsoft stated that it would demand an even higher per device royalty for any device that acted ‘more like a computer’ as opposed to an eReader.”

B&N’s response also said that Microsoft was seeking a more than double per device royalty for the color version of the Nook — an amount B&N officials believed be “higher than what Microsoft charges for a license to its entire operating system designed for mobile devices, Windows Phone 7.”

I haven't seen a dollar figure as to what Microsoft charges its own Windows Phone OEMs for each copy of the Windows Phone OS that they license. But let's pretend the double-per-device royalty B&N mentioned is the $15 that Microsoft is supposedly seeking from Samsung. That would mean the "regular" Microsoft royalty payment per Android phone would be in the $7 range. And the fee that Microsoft is charging Windows Phone OEMs per copy of the OS would be something just under $15 per copy. (All guesses here; Microsoft hasn't responded to my request for comment, and at best, I'm expecting a no comment.)

It's worth noting that Microsoft officials have not shared publicly a list of Microsoft patents upon which they contend the Android operating system infringes. B&N said in its response to Microsoft's complaint that Microsoft officials told them the Android-based Nook infringed on six of Microsoft's patents, and that Microsoft expected B&N to sign a non-disclosure agreement to get more specifics (something that B&N has declined to do, according to its response).

Microsoft's Android-patent push is a continuation of its campaign, begun last year, to show that the Android operating system isn't really free.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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