Microsoft announced that they will be licensing their patent portfolio to HTC for use in their Android phones-- yes, Android phones. In what appears to be a rather strange move, Microsoft said, “Microsoft Corp. and HTC Corp. have signed a patent agreement that provides broad coverage under Microsoft's patent portfolio for HTC's mobile phones running the Android mobile platform. Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will receive royalties from HTC.”
While on the surface this looks like just another licensing agreement that will benefit Microsoft through licensing fees, there may be more at play here. TechCrunch suggest this may actually be a move by Microsoft to help HTC combat Apple in their recent patent infringement case. Microsoft has a sizable collection of patents which HTC could use in their defense, so both companies stand to gain from this deal.
It may be in Microsoft’s best interest to lend a helping hand to third parties they rely heavily upon, even if it indirectly helping one of their biggest competitors, Google. Unlike Apple, strong hardware partnerships are key to Microsoft, and HTC has quickly risen to the top of the smartphone handset market in recent years. With the release of Windows Phone 7 due this holiday, solidifying these kind of relationships is certain to be high on Microsoft’s list of priorities.
The full press release can be seen on Microsoft’s site.