Handset maker: Windows Phone OS costs $23-plus per copy?

Is Microsoft charging some of its phone OEMs between $23 and $31 per copy to license its Windows Phone OS?
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

There's a report on TrustedReviews.com that quotes an official with Windows Phone OEM ZTE as saying the company is paying Microsoft somewhere betweeen $23 and $31 per copy to license the Windows Phone operating system.

(I wonder whether this total includes the patent-licensing royalty fees that Microsoft is levying from a growing number of Android smartphone OEMs, which some have pegged at somewhere between $5 to $15 per phone. I've asked Microsoft officials just in case they might respond. but no word back yet.) Update: Microsoft declined to comment on any part of the ZTE report.

As Neowin noted, Microsoft could and probably does have a tiered pricing system for the Windows Phone OS, just as it traditionally had/has for Windows. The top tier most likely pays a lower licensing fee, given they move more phones. Is ZTE a "top tier" OEM like Samsung or HTC? Doubtful, even though the Chinese phone maker, the No. 4 player worldwide, allegedly has some big expansion plans.

The new $23-$31 figure is interesting in that -- if it's accurate -- it provides one of the first (if not the first) glimpse as to what OEMs are paying for the Windows Phone OS. It's widely believed Microsoft still currently gets more per copy from OEMs for licensing Windows than it does by licensing the Windows Phone OS. Estimates of the price-per-copy for the two OSes have been all over the map, ranging from $3 per copy per Windows Phone (for top tier licensees), to $30 to $100-plus per copy of Windows 8.

In other Windows Phone news this week, Microsoft's tightest OEM partner, Nokia, has sold more than 450 of its mobile communications patents and applications to Sisvel International. (Nokia made a similar move last year when it offloaded about 2,000 of its patents to Mosaid Technologies.)

The purpose behind these moves by Nokia seems to be designed to offload patent licensing and enforcement, according to FOSS Patents blogger Florian Mueller.

"The sale of such patents by large operating companies to patent monetization (and assertion) entities is pretty common by now," said Mueller (who is working on a study of FRAND patents for Microsoft). "If any other operating companies in the industry would have preferred to take a license to those patents directly from Nokia, they could have done so all the time, and most license agreements survive a sale of the licensed patents. If any other industry players refused to take a license in the past, they will now have to negotiate with a patent holder they can't even countersue because Sisvel doesn't have any products one could claim to infringe any patents."

Nokia also is rolling out starting this week its second update for its Lumia 800 phones aimed at addressing battery-life and wifi connectivity concerns.

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