Android Is a Gold Mine ... for Microsoft, & 4 More Things to Know Today

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer Unveils Windows Phone 7 At Open House
Bloomberg via Getty ImagesSteve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, may wish the Windows Phone operating systems sold better, but there's a big silver lining for him in the success of rival Android.

Here's a quick rundown from the world of business and economics this morning: the things you need to know, and some you'll just want to know.

• In the world of mobile devices, Android means Google (GOOG). But Google's not the only company profiting from the popular OS. Microsoft is pulling in a cool $2 billion a year in revenue from Android patent royalties -- and that's nearly all pure profit, which is helping Microsoft (MSFT) hide the losses from certain other parts of its Entertainment and Devices division.

• When you think of IPOs, you probably think mostly of rising young companies like Twitter (TWTR). But aging icons of the business world can decide to go public too. Witness next week's IPO of publishing house Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, founded 181 years ago, and this week's offering by Avianca Holdings, which owns several Latin America airlines that first took flight in 1919.

• If you're wondering why the economic recovery doesn't feel like much of a recovery, it could be because, for a broad swath of Americans, it hasn't been. The poverty rate has been stuck at nearly 50 million for the past two years.

• You may think of crime and punishment more as functions of government than business, but over the past few decades, that's changed dramatically. Now, a large fraction of prisons are run by private companies, which profit when more people get locked up, and when previous offenders commit new crimes and get sent back inside. Which is why it's probably no coincidence that, as bestselling author and actor Hill Harper points out in his new book, about 30 years ago, America had about 300,000 incarcerated people, and today, it has 2.4 million.

• And finally, there's nothing in federal law that requires employers to give workers paid sick leave, but a few cities and counties have been passing laws that mandate it locally. In response, big business has been fighting back -- hard. After intense (and expensive) lobbying by business groups, 10 states have passed laws that preemptively ban local governments from enacting paid sick days laws, and at least 14 more are considering them. (Funny thing, though: The best research done so far shows that paid sick leave laws either don't cost businesses much at all, or save them money.)