B&N surprises me more and more these days. They were the first to show the potential of an inexpensive $250 Android tablet with the original Nook Color, and continuing to do it with the upcoming Nook Tablet. This is surprising by itself because they could figure out what a regular Android manufacturer couldn’t – that there may be a market for quality low-end tablets.

But what’s even more surprising is that they are among the very few (alongside Motorola) to actually stand-up to Microsoft when they know Microsoft is wrong charging everyone for their patents as much as they do for their mobile OS – patents that haven’t even been validated in a Court.

Remember, these are all “alleged patent infringements”, which is why it’s so sad to see companies like Samsung and HTC simply agree to pay Microsoft, even though they know most of their patents are bogus. I mean, come on Samsung and HTC – you’ve benefited so much from Android, and you’re just letting Microsoft walk all over you like that?

In the mean time, B&N, a book store chain company, which has been using Android for only a year, decided to see if Microsoft’s so called patent infringements can actually pass the validity test in a Court. Obviously, they think they don’t, otherwise they wouldn’t have gone to Court.

But they aren’t stopping there, and they are even asking the US regulators to intervene and stop Microsoft from monopolizing the market with their patents and drive out the competition.

“Microsoft is embarking on a campaign of asserting trivial and outmoded patents against manufacturers of Android devices,” Barnes & Noble said in an Oct. 17 letter to Gene Kimmelman, the Justice Department’s chief counsel for competition policy.

“Microsoft is attempting to raise its rivals’ costs in order to drive out competition and to deter innovation in mobile devices.”

Once again, I find it ridiculous that they even dare to charge for a bunch of patents as much as they do for their whole mobile OS. How is that even possible? Well, it’s possible because, unfortunately, that’s how the current patent system works. It gives companies legal monopolies over a piece of technology, and not just for a year or two – but for as much as 17 years, which might as well be a century in smartphone years, the way technology moves these days. By the time those patents expire, they usually don’t even make sense anymore. Plus, they are used by the old companies owning them, to stop competition from entering the market.

Can new smartphone companies, actually enter the smartphone market now without owning thousands and thousands of patents, and even if they invent the phones themselves? No, I don’t think they can. They’d all have to pay a “rent” to Microsoft for simply being in the market, and not using Microsoft’s OS, like in the case of Android manufacturers. Heck, some of them are even using their OS, and Microsoft still demands them to pay the rent for using Android.

I honestly don’t know how companies like Samsung or HTC can just accept this. It’s like they think they get a privilege for using WP7. No – it’s actually Microsoft who needs these companies badly, not the other way around. It’s Microsoft who desperately needs to enter the mobile game.

Still, don’t think that Microsoft is “just fine” getting money from Android, and they “don’t really need WP7”. That’s completely false. Making money from Android rather than their own OS means that they don’t control the dominating platform of the future. Sure they can make some money off it (so far only a few tens of millions – peanuts compared to the $18 billion/year they get from desktop Windows), but they will be missing a ton of opportunities by not leading the game, like they do with Windows in the PC market.

Plus, getting money from Android is a very unstable and unpredictable “business”. Google will keep replacing the patents that Microsoft asserts against the manufacturers. Android 4.0 was probably already built with that in mind, and I can only imagine they’ll try doing that even more in the future. And one day, maybe a couple of years from now, the manufacturers will just say:

“Hey, you know what, we’re not infringing most of your patents anymore (or at least not the ones that would hold up in a Court), so we’re going to stop paying you. If you want to take us to Court, fine – bring it. But we’re also going to stop using WP7 – for good.”

When that day comes, Microsoft will be left with no share in the mobile market, and no royalty money from Android, either. It could happen even sooner than expected if B&N gets their way and the US regulators start probing Microsoft over this. They could actually manage to stop Microsoft from extorting all the Android manufacturers over trivial and ridiculous patents, especially if they win the lawsuit with them, too. If they win it, others might start going to Court with Microsoft, too.

[Source: Bloomberg]

  • noMS

    Excellent article. MS should better concentrate on bringing innovation onto their products which lack exactly this. We were so unlucky that the marketing genius, Bill Gates, brought us all such a bed product. Here is the BIG difference in policies:
    1. Google – new version of Android runs faster in the same hardware.
    2. Microsoft – new version (of Windows) needs 4 times the CPU power and runs 10 times slower and is 100 times (un-necessarily) more complex.
    Guess who will go out of business in the not so far away future?

    • Anonymous

      “1. Google – new version of Android runs faster in the same hardware.
      2. Microsoft – new version (of Windows) needs 4 times the CPU power and runs 10 times slower and is 100 times (un-necessarily) more complex.”

      You truly are a fucking idiot, and an ignorant douche to boot. That post is outright bullshit. Android is a laggy piece of shit, even on dual core processors.

      As for number 2, well that’s just a laugh riot, and complete nonsense.

  • You might be interested in the libertarian case against intellectual property made by Stephan Kinsella and others. See Kinsella’s, “The Case Against IP: A Concise Guide” for starters.

    • oliwek

      thank you for this link, Geoffrey, interesting reading…

  • See_The_Future

    We all need to visualize the outcome of this as seeing MS sanctioned and software patents going to the bin. . . like there were when Apple & MS started–non existent.

    Seriously! Thousands of people putting their consciousness behind change in this area can make things happen.

  • Anonymous

    The reason Samsung/HTC will simply pay should be obvious…

    They both build WP7 phones, they’ve obviously figured its more valuable to stay friends than enemies.

  • Emeralda02

    Please look up monsanto and seed patents. Monsanto dropped tons of patented soybeans out of trucks that were supposed to have tarps over the top, but didnt, and then went to the farmers who had those soybeans growing on the side of the road and sued them for everything they were worth. Monsanto won. The sad part is that the monsanto seeds had negatively impacted those farmer’s fields by introducing genetics the farmers didnt want. Some of those farmers had heirloom seed passed down from generation to generation that was tainted by the monsanto soybeans. Patent law is clear. Whether or not the person who infringed on the patent profited from it, whether they did it knowingly, whether the infringement was one plant or thousands, monsanto got the amount they asked for in court. BTW ‘COURT’ doesnt need to be capitalized. The silver lining is that congress can stop monopolies and severe market dominance. Now, how much do you believe in congress? Me either.

  • Anonymous

    Wow. You sound like a very angry nerd who really really hates microsoft as much as apple fanboys really really love their iphones. Tone it down. I get that you love your android. But keep in mind that Microsoft makes a quality product. And businesses need a revenue stream in order to o make $$$. Google can get away with making a lot of things “free” because it has a monopoly on digital advertising which it increases as it grows its brand name. I have nothing against google. Or apple. Or Microsoft. They all got to where they are by doing some things right. I have an iPhone 4, a (brand new) LG optimus LTE android phone, an outdated LG Optimus 7 windows 7 phone, as well as an HP Touchpad, and an iPad 2, and run windows 7, as well as windows 8 on my touch screen computer set up and dell touch netbook. What does that show you? You don’t have to be a fanboy..and can enjoy technology…because there’s a lot of it out there.

    • Connor Kennedy

      Good job on your arguement there. cause its has the same impact as me saying a boeing 747 is better then a Mustang… You really didnt have any basis to start on there other then calling him an “angry nerd” please, for the sake of the people who read this stuff for a reason. Go troll in another pond.

    • Yea, seriously dude. Stop trolling. He didn’t write the article claiming that Android is better than WM, or that Microsoft makes inferior products. He wrote the article to inform the public of Microsoft’s ridiculous monopoly over the smartphone market, and how B&N is actually standing up to them. You’re the one that seems like the fanboy for Microsoft. Quality products? Maybe. Monopoly due to patent restrictions that have no legal ground and need to be stopped? Definitely. Like Connor said, go troll somewhere else.

      • Anonymous

        LOL! Can you please explain to me how Microsoft has a monopoly in the smartphone market dumbass? I’d love to hear you try to back that up.