Microsoft and RIM sign file-system licensing agreement

Microsoft and RIM sign file-system licensing agreement

Summary: RIM is now licensing Microsoft's exFAT file system technology.


Microsoft and Research in Motion (RIM) have signed a technology licensing agreement, Microsoft announced on September 18.


Don't get too excited about this one. It's not yet another an Android licensing arrangement -- which makes sense since the BlackBerry OS isn't Android-based. Instead, the agreement announced today is for exFAT.

exFAT, or EXtended File Allocation Table, is an enhanced version of the FAT file system from Microsoft that uses less overhead than the Windows NTFS file system. It extends the maximum file size of 4GB in FAT32 to virtually unlimited. exFAT has been part of part of Microsoft's embedded version of Windows, as well as of Windows client. Microsoft also has continued to license FAT (the "full FAT"?) alongside exFAT to interested parties.

Microsoft has signed up a number of other companies as exFAT licensees, including Sharp, Sony, Canon, Sanyo, SanDisk and Tuxera over the past few years.

(Back in 2010, Microsoft was charging a $300,000 flat free to license exFAT for certain consumer device categories, including cameras, camcorders and digital photo frames, with volume-based pricing available for those who want to license it for mobile phones, PCs and networks, officials told me.)

The Microsoft-RIM deal announced today is the first second technology licensing deal between the two companies, a Microsoft spokesperson said. (The first deal between the two was RIM's agreement to license Exchange ActiveSync.) Today's deal "allows RIM to incorporate exFAT into certain BlackBerry devices."

Microsoft is not commenting on how much RIM is paying to license exFAT.

Topics: Legal, Microsoft, BlackBerry, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • I have no idea why

    with so many great open source filesystems out there and unlike FAT, exFAT isn't really in heavy use as far as I know. Why these companies still want to get in bed with MS to this day, I have no idea.
    But it does show that, companies _do_ license each others stuff. Every time an android based device MFR licenses something from MS, the media plays it up like some big attack on android.
    • Maybe those open source file systems

      aren't really as all that great as you may think they are? RIM has to have checked out a bunch of those before deciding to license MS's system.

      Also, "Why these companies still want to get in bed with MS to this day"?

      Becuase they are here to this day, and will be for the forseable future, something not many open source companies can be confident about themselves.
      William Farrel
      • Open source isn't well supported

        It's the same reason they didn't give mr cook a call and ask to use hfs+j.

        Also factor in that most open source filesystems are not considered finished yet - even the dominant ext4. New sustms such as btrfs still aren't supported across distros, and have you ever tried mounting bsd filesystems in linux even?

        Now many got around this by just formatting in ntfs ( all my shared partitions are ntfs; as all the systems i use can have read/write.) but if you want lots of compatibility, well 99% of the computer market can mount exFAT out of the box.
        Think how long everyone kept using fat, even though it's limitations have been causing problems for years; because everything can use it
        • Not "finished" but "stable"

          If you look at it this way, no open source product will ever be considered "finished" because there will always be room for improvement. But that doesn't mean that a certain milestone can't be considered "stable", or "reliable", or be used as a reference implementation. If a specific version of ext4, for example, would have been filed for standardization to ISO or ECMA, or whatever other standardization organization, it might have become its chance to be broadly adopted. But it wasn't, and will never be because usually there's a lot of money involved in these processes that is just not available.
          • There's also the fractured nature of open source...

            You need a standard - it doesn't necessarily have to be an outside organisation, the linux foundation or orher could create a template for the FS. However this isn't how OS typically works, projwcts spliter off like tree routes as different goals are explored by the developers.

            In the case of EXT4 for example it will never be finished as you say, for the very reason that it's a stop-gap measure, awaiting more advanced FS such as LVM and BTRFS.

            As others have said, standardisation is essential to the popularity of an FS, open source projects in general do not begave this way. I would not agree that this is about funding, rather the nature of development itself.
      • Reason

        I think it was more a reason for RIM to licence their own software to MS, and this was a deal to make sure MS accepted the RIM. The most important thing was to get Active sync and get MS to accept it
    • exFAT is defacto standard

      on SD and USB memory, etc. If a license is needed to support it then it makes sense.
  • Wow

    I really hope this article wasn't edited or proofed because if it was that person or people should be fired. It's almost unreadable.
    • LOL

      Hey thanks. Glad you enjoyed it!
      Seriously, though, it's technology licensing stuff that is fairly technical (file system). If you have a factual correction to any of it, let me know. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • Mary, Here is what caught my eye.

        These phrases should be corrected.

        ...which makes sense sense the BlackBerry...

        ...It's not yet another an Android licensing...

        ...exFAT has been part of part of Microsoft's embedded...
      • @ Mary J Foley

        He is probably refering to these sentences:
        It's not yet another an Android licensing arrangement -- which makes sense sense the BlackBerry OS isn't Android-based. Instead, the agreement announced today is for exFAT.

        The above statements may be rewritten as follows:
        It is not another Android licensing arrangement - which makes sense given that Blackberry OS isn't Android-based. The agreement announced today is instead for ExFAT.

        There is a chance that older people may get confused a bit.
  • Wow

    Mary Jo,
    My guess, zausner is referencing grammar and punctuation. If I am correct I agree with zausner.

    Your above article about Microsoft and RIM licensing is interesting. Thank you.
  • and "flat free"

    And this article hardly counts as "fairly technical". It's hardly more than a press release, really, given that it didn't go at all into non-MS filesystems or much detail about the FAT family of filesystems. So, lower overhead than NTFS and somehow different than FAT and FAT32 (feel free to get fairly technical and explain those differences, by the way), got it.

    And all these hours on and apparently none of the mistakes have been corrected. This isn't some neckbeard's blog - this is supposed to be a professional site.

    To be fair, though, I haven't seen this story anywhere else, so thanks for that much.
    • The writing and grammer aside...sorry MJ, it's bad...

      While I can see a lot of benefit to exFAT, I don't understand why RIM whose biggest limitation was the massive Windows-only desktop client that had to be installed to manage their devices, would now tie themselves to ActiveSync, which immediately limits them to only Windows PC and goes right back to creating a desktop dependance. Essentially they've set themselves up to be replaced by Windows 8.
  • Then again, to be fair.....

    "I really hope this article wasn't edited or proofed because if it was that person or people should be fired. It's almost unreadable."

    Lets be fair... a little short on proper punctuation yourself!

    Any way ... it's good to see RIM and MS working together for the common good.