Does Microsoft Own Android?
Want to manufacture and bring a Google (NAS: GOOG) Android device into the market? You're going to have to stop by Microsoft's (NAS: MSFT) patent toll -- or should I say "troll?" -- booth before you head down the treacherous road to go head-to-head with Apple's (NAS: AAPL) iPad and Amazon.com's (NAS: AMZN) Kindle Fire.
It's yesterday's news that Microsoft collects royalties from Android devices. Yet what most likely don't realize is how deeply Mr. Softy has its hands in the jar at this point, after the company's efforts have been snowballing and its list of licensees continues to grow, with Compal Electronics as the latest addition. The number of companies that have signed on the dotted line is now up to 10, with a handful additionally still in patent litigation. Here they are in chronological order:
- HTC -- April 27, 2010
- General Dynamics (NYS: GD) Itronix -- June 27, 2011
- Velocity Micro -- June 29, 2011
- Onkyo -- June 30, 2011
- Wistron -- July 5, 2011
- ViewSonic -- Sept. 8, 2011
- Acer -- Sept. 8, 2011
- Samsung -- Sept. 28, 2011
- Quanta Computer -- Oct. 13, 2011
- 0. Compal Electronics -- Oct. 23, 2011
You may not be familiar with some of these manufacturers, while others are household names. These licensing agreements now cover more than half of all Android devices. On top of that, Microsoft is still dueling with Barnes & Noble (NYS: BKS) , Foxconn, Inventec, and Motorola Mobility (NYS: MMI) .
HTC was the first to ink an agreement, but you'll notice that the rest have all caved within the past few months. Although no financial terms are disclosed, Samsung likely caught a break by agreeing to beef up its support of Windows Phone. Quanta is notable since it is the maker of Research In Motion's (NAS: RIMM) PlayBook as well as the Kindle Fire.
Goldman Sachs has estimated that the average royalty per device is between $3 and $6, and that the Redmond giant stands to collect roughly $444 million over the next year. Other estimates have been as high as $10 per Samsung and HTC device, so this figure could even end up higher.
Google CEO Larry Page is understandably peeved by the whole situation but feels Microsoft's trolling ways may end up backfiring since the tolls may "alienate" the same OEM partners that it is enslaving while it also needs them to support Windows Phone. In contrast, the Samsung deal shows that the royalty negotiations might just be the perfect leverage to coax manufacturers onto the Mango train.
- Add Microsoft to your Watchlist to see if it grows its list of Android slaves.
At the time this article was published Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple and Amazon.com, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, General Dynamics, Microsoft, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Amazon.com and creating bull call spread positions in Apple and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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