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Android Patent Disputes Present Opportunities for Windows 8 Tablets to Capitalize

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With Apple and Microsoft making the rounds of recent patent litigation news on the mobile front, the cost and risks of licensing and using the Android operating system on devices may be prohibitively high for manufacturers, presenting a rare opportunity for Microsoft to make a comeback in the tablet category, a mobile computing space that it had helped to create with the tablet PC era nearly a decade ago.

Microsoft itself had been pursuing smartphone manufacturers in the past–including those that jointly license Windows Phone 7 alongside the Android platform–to cough up licensing fees on technologies and core patents that Android infringes upon. It is speculated that long-time Windows Mobile partner HTC may pay Microsoft around $5 per Android device sold and that Microsoft may be asking Samsung for as high as $15 per device.

Microsoft however isn’t the only one trying to capitalize on the popularity of the Android platform. Rival Apple has also gone after several prominent Android manufacturers, including Samsung, HTC, and Motorola with their iconic Galaxy, EVO, and Droid brands in the U.S. over core Android technologies that are said to be infringing on Apple’s iOS platform. It’s unclear what the costs of licensing those technologies would be for various manufacturers, but the case against HTC may have the broadest implications on the Android ecosystem as whole. While Apple’s case against Samsung deals more with the device’s overall look, TouchWiz’s styling cues, and the packaging of the Galaxy smartphones and tablets, the case against HTC involves core Android technologies, such as the way that contact information is contextually linked. As such, Apple’s victory against HTC with the International Trade Commission (ITC) could spell trouble for Google’s kingdom as it may cause Android products from either being banned in the U.S. or force Android manufacturers to cough up high licensing costs.

Couple the cost of licensing Android–both on smartphones and on tablets–technology from patent-holders Apple and Microsoft, the cost of using Android can be prohibitively high. In the tablet market, where the iPad dictates the overall price of the market–consumers can expect that a base WiFi-only 16 GB 10-inch tablet will cost around $500, if not less–and also given Apple’s economies of scale with key components from glass, touchscreen panels, memory, and other materials, rival manufacturers have a hard time keeping pace with cost and price when competing with Apple. That difficulty already existed when Android is technically ‘free’ to use from Google, but with the added licensing costs, tablet-makers using the Android platform may find it hard to compete on features, specs, price, and functionality.

As such, the high cost of licensing Android for the tablet market can be an advantage for Microsoft to capitalize on. If the company prices Windows 8 tablet at an affordable price–cheaper than the licensing and litigation costs involved when using Android for tablets–then the company can stand to gain market share in this category. Microsoft could potentially provide Windows 8 tablet OS licenses as a loss leader to gain market share away from both Android and iOS.

If Microsoft fails to gain market share in this tumultuous time of uncertainty with pending patent litigations, it may find that Apple may gain even more grounds with the iPad. The market-leading and market-defining iOS-based iPad can gain grounds if competing companies may be forced to price their Android tablet rivals higher due to added licensing costs.

As such, Android’s big blow of today can be Microsoft’s victory for tomorrow, but can Windows 8 tablets realize Microsoft’s dreams? In order for this to happen, Microsoft must slim down on Windows and bulk up on attractive consumer-centric features rather than focus its tablet strategy on a convoluted strategy that’s defined by the PC era. It’s time for Windows tablets to enter the post-PC age, and there’s a lot to gain when that happens.

Tech enthusiast in Silicon Valley enjoying the possibilities of ubiquitous connectivity, information sharing, and collaboration enabled by mobile broadband. You can contact Chuong on Twitter @chuongvision or search +chuongvision on Google+.

6 Comments

  1. John Kiser

    07/19/2011 at 7:02 pm

    These issues are absurd to exist in the first place really…. It just goes to show how broken and corrupted the patent system has become over the years. Where once this system was designed to protect truly innovative inventions for being copied exactly, today’s use of the patent office seems to be applying for broad patents (since they don’t seem to review these things for jack shit) and then abusing other companies with them just because they are competing with you.

    And yeah i’ve heard the whole “its just business” but I’ve found apple’s business practices to be horrible for years now really. While some of their products are “consumer friendly” (ipad, iphone etc which are typically subsidized price wise when you get them through a carrier…and their  mac mini and some laptops are ok) their generalized approach is more about stylized look that they overcharge for. The imacs for instance have laptop innards for the most part and the Mac Pro is overtly expensive if someone wants an even somewhat upgradable product…. Apple needs to create a line of towers that look good but do not rely on xeon based processors so they can mark down the price.

    The whole closed garden approach will always see apple running into a brick wall in the long run to adoption and the whole upgrade path is a bit much… iOS is still strong given other areas but windows has alot of work to do to really make an impact. We’ll see what happens with those patents either way. I hope the ITC board goes by their own findings that none of the patents where applicable in the case and just tell apple and others to shut it. One judge ruled 2 of the patents were infringed upon but the research division found none did and its ultimately not up to one judge but rather a whole commision.

  2. Dale Strauss

    07/19/2011 at 8:38 pm

    I’ve got my souped-up HP 2740p convertible (Core-i5; 8gb ram; 256gb SSD) just waiting for the Win8 release – I don’t care what gets M$oft off their duffs and delivers, just let me have my Tablet PC (ok – you can all stop snickering now)…

  3. Anonymous

    07/19/2011 at 11:37 pm

    I paid $32.67 for a XBOX 360 and my mom got a 17 inch Toshiba laptop for $94.83 being delivered to our house tomorrow by FedEX. I will never again pay expensive retail prices at stores. I even sold a 46 inch HDTV to my boss for $650 and it only cost me $52.78 to get. Here is the website we using to get all this stuff, GrabPenny.com

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