CONVICTED MONOPOLIST Microsoft has managed to squeeze money from the smartphone maker HTC for using some of its much talked about but never revealed patents that Microsoft claims implicate Linux as part of the Android OS.
According to the Vole's press website, Microsoft and HTC have signed a patent agreement that provides broad coverage under Microsoft's patent portfolio for HTC's mobile phones running the Android mobile operating system. Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will receive royalties from HTC.
However this information is somewhat alarming. It means that Microsoft is approaching companies and demanding money for "its intellectual property" that it claims is used in Linux and other free software.
The smartphone market is already riven with legal disputes as software companies and handset makers wrangle over who deserves compensation for technology behind new devices that go well beyond traditional mobile phones.
HTC is currently at war with Apple over its Android phones. Steve Jobs claims that it infringes some 20 hardware and software patents related to the Iphone.
The fact that HTC makes some pretty fine Android-powered phones that could threaten Jobs' Mob's glorious Iphone empire has got nothing to do with it.
The patent deal with Microsoft might mean that HTC does not want to fight a war on two fronts. Licensing arrangements are standard procedure for Microsoft, which has similar deals with more than 600 companies.
It is possible that Apple approached HTC with a similar deal, but if so, the sum Apple wanted probably had too many zeros.
Still, the fact that Microsoft is leaning on companies for money over the Linux-based Android OS will be a little worrying to those in the open source community, especially Google, the sponsor of Android. The last organisation to try that with Linux was the Vole's sock puppet, SCO. µ