Last month, Microsoft took bookseller Barnes & Noble, the company responsible for the Nook and Nook Color, to court over some patents infringed because B&N used the Android operating system in the Nook and Nook Color. This is definitely nothing new in the world of mobile devices. It happens all the time, especially with companies like Apple and Microsoft trying to take complete dominance of every arena they enter. That's not the big story here. The big story is the extremely, and I mean EXTREMELY douche-tastic way Microsoft is trying to attack Android with these patents.
One of Android's biggest advantages (besides being vastly superior, of course) is that it costs exactly nothing. A free operating system is much more enticing than one that you have to pay to use, just like anything else. It stands to reason, then, that companies like Microsoft, who charge for licensing of their operating system, would want to cripple the free competition in any way they can. Microsoft found a great way to do this and, BONUS! - they didn't actually have to improve their product at all.
When Microsoft approached Barnes & Noble, they stated that Android infringed on 6 Microsoft patents but wouldn't go into further detail without B&N signing a non-disclosure agreement. Like a boss, B&N gave them the finger (not really, but that would've been cool) because "the patents are a matter of public record." Nice! Microsoft then threatened to shut down Barnes & Noble's ability to use Android altogether. At this point, Microsoft revealed the licensing costs for those six patents. Quothe Barnes & Noble:
On information and belief, the license fees demanded by Microsoft are higher than what Microsoft charges for a license to its entire operating system designed for mobile devices, Windows Phone 7.
I'll let you read that over a couple more times to let it sink in. Go ahead, I'll wait.
Now, hopefully, you've changed your pants, taken a shower, and had a beer and you're ready to read more. In addition to the fact that Microsoft gets more because you have Android than they would if you were running Windows Phone 7, Microsoft asked for more than double THAT number because the Nook Color is closer to a full computing device. I just ran out of "WTF"s.
Microsoft typically get's anywhere from $10-$15 for each Windows Phone 7 device. If they're charging more than that for patent licensing in Android, let's say, $20, and wanted to more than double THAT for the Nook color, we're sitting at a (purely theoretical, not fact-based, "I just made this up to impress you with math") price of $40-$45. Microsoft would make more money from my Nook Color purchase than if I somehow started thinking Windows Phone 7 was a viable competitor in the mobile space. That is some crappy crap.
This is all in an attempt by Microsoft to make Android, the free alternative, cost money. Their idea here is that, if the people who make Android won't charge for it, we will. Barnes & Noble are hip to Microsoft's game, though, and, unlike me, are all smart from their book-readin' and stuff-learnin'. They replied to Microsoft's lawsuit with a shiny new lawsuit of their own: "Misusing Patents to Further an Anticompetive Scheme Against Android." Here's a clip of what Barnes & Noble had to say:
DISCLAIMER: Android Police is not responsible if you start systematically destroying all Windows devices you encounter in a fit of rage after reading this.
...Microsoft has asserted patents that extend only to arbitrary, outmoded, or non-essential design features, but uses these patents to demand that every manufacturer of an Android-based mobile device take a license from Microsoft and pay exorbitant licensing fees or face protracted and expensive patent infringement litigation. The asserted patents do not have a lawful scope sufficient to control the AndroidTM Operating System as Microsoft is attempting to do, and Microsoft’s misuse of these patents directly harms both competition for and consumers of all eReaders, smartphones, tablet computers and other mobile electronic devices....
3. Microsoft did not invent, research, develop, or make available to the public mobile devices employing the AndroidTM Operating System and other open source operating systems, but nevertheless seeks to dominate something it did not invent. On information and belief, Microsoft intends to take and has taken definite steps towards making competing operating systems such as the AndroidTM Operating System unusable and unattractive to both consumers and device manufacturers through exorbitant license fees and absurd licensing restrictions that bear no relation to the scope and subject matter of its own patents....
9. On information and belief, as part of Microsoft’s recently announced agreement with Nokia to replace Nokia’s Symbian operating system with Microsoft’s own mobile device operating system, Microsoft and Nokia discussed and apparently agreed upon a strategy for coordinated offensive use of their patents. Indeed, in videotaped remarks made two days after the Microsoft-Nokia agreement was announced, Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop confirmed that Microsoft and Nokia had discussed how their combined intellectual property portfolio is “remarkably strong” and that Microsoft and Nokia intended to use this combined portfolio both defensively and offensively. This type of horizontal agreement between holders of significant patent portfolios is per se illegal under the antitrust laws, threatens competition for mobile device operating systems and is further evidence of Microsoft’s efforts to dominate and control Android and other open source operating systems.
So there you have it. Microsoft, in "protecting its intellectual property", has stated that the entire operating system it designed is worth less than six half-assed patents in another system. The moral of the story is this, boys and girls: If you want to make money, don't improve your product. Simply use underhanded tactics to make your superior competitor more expensive.
If anyone needs me, I'll be in the back downloading Ubuntu.