It seems Microsoft is getting more and more successful in extorting money from Android manufacturers, and are now making 53% of the Android devices in USA more expensive (thanks Microsoft!). I can’t say I’m too surprised. After all they are using a time-proven extorting tactic that has been used for decades by patent trolls, and some would say even by the mafia a few decades ago with their protection rackets. It might sound a little extreme, but let’s look at what Microsoft is really doing here.
Here’s the definition of a protection racket from Wikipedia:
“A protection racket is an extortion scheme whereby a criminal group or individual coerces a victim (usually a business) to pay money, supposedly for protection services against violence or property damage.”
So in other words, Microsoft is creating a “patent licensing” scheme to coerce Android manufacturers to pay them money, or otherwise they’ll drag them to Court for a few expensive years. It also sounds very similar to what copyright trolls are doing when they launch lawsuits against tens of thousands of people unless they pay up a few thousand dollars each. Of course, when they actually get in Court those cases get thrown out by the judges, but some of those people being threatened still end up “settling” with the copyright trolls. But that’s a whole other story. Back to Microsoft.
First of all, I’d like to say that I have nothing against licensing real products or services. If Microsoft wants to license a real product like ActiveSync, Office, and so on – that’s great! Then companies would pay for products that their customers can actually use, and they’ll get their money’s worth.
But when you start going around licensing “your competitor’s products” because you have some really vague and old “patent”, that’s when it becomes really absurd. Yes, I know that the law basically allows for that, and that the Patent Office has been accepting increasingly more useless and more vague patents, but it’s one thing to be allowed to abuse your competitors like that, and it’s quite another to actually do it.
Microsoft has been signing deals with Android manufacturers left and right, and they’ve done so in a very patent trollish way. They’ve first gone after smaller and weaker players, asking them to pay “reasonable” amounts, instead of taking them to Court. Then, once they had a big enough list, they started going after bigger companies, like Samsung and Acer.
So when they go to them and show them the list of companies already accepting to pay the licensing fees for “patents”, they use it as sort of “proof” that Android is actually infringing on them. I mean “why else would those companies agree to pay, right”? It can’t possibly be because they’d rather pay a small fee (or a mafioso protection tax if you will), than go to Court with Microsoft, can it?
Not to mention that even if the other companies don’t think the patents make much sense, the fear of actually fighting Microsoft in Court for years, will start creeping in as well. So is Microsoft getting paid here because of their awesome technology? Or is it just because they’re abusing the patent system to form a protection racket?
It just goes to show what kind of attitude and culture Microsoft has as a company. Google is not perfect, no company is. But at least they are striving to “do no evil”, even if there are exceptions to that in some cases. But they usually mean well. On the other hand, Microsoft seems much more self-centric as a company, and they don’t really care how or what they have to do to take down another company, even if it means abusing a very broken patent system.
A lot of people buy products because of what they believe in, and if the company they buy from has the same kind of beliefs. Google believes in making open and free products, with a “do no evil” attitude on the side. Apple believes in making quality and easy to use products. What exactly does Microsoft believe in? Can anyone answer that quickly? Because my first thought is “just making money” – which means they’ll do whatever it takes, good or bad, to do that. But how exactly does that inspire confidence to their customers, and who would actually want to invest in a company with such an attitude?
Microsoft forgets that there are 200 million Android users right now, and there will be 500 million next year, who are still using Windows for now. But if Microsoft keeps this up, how long are they going to take it? I for one, can’t wait for these Transformer-like Android devices to take over, for the ARM chips to become even more powerful, and for the Android app ecosystem to mature in the next 2 or so years, so I can replace Windows for good. I think a lot of people will start feeling that way in the coming years, once they see they can do increasingly more stuff with their Android laptop replacements.
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Great article Lucian.
One of the big companies should come up with a workaround. An example might be that they just sell you the phone and make it easy for you to install the OS for yourself for free. The OS installation would include an instruction to send $10 to Micro$oft – but it would be entirely the phone owner’s responsibility to do so.
It doesn’t really matter. Sure, we all pay a few extra bucks per handset however; if this breaks Microsoft’s OS monopoly it is well worth it. In the long run, these patents will expire and we will have an open OS that works on everything–phone, tablet, notebook, desktop, TV, Car, etc. . .
I’ll take that over the current state of the WinTel monopoly.
Whether or not the patents are valid & legitimate tech, that’s another argument and I think we all agree that the patent systems needs an overhaul though, it’s hilarious because MS has used a lot of “stolen” IP in their products over the years just as apple has–no one hates a thief more than a thief.
And as the Android OS matures, we can expect evolution that will break free of these lecerous ways.