Android stopped being free a long time ago for OEMs due to the legal efforts of Microsoft. The company has convinced many device manufacturers, including Samsung and HTC, to pay Microsoft a royalty fee for its patents related to how the Android OS works.
Well it seems it's now the ODMs' turn. Microsoft has announced it has entered a patent licensing deal with Hon Hai, the parent company of Foxconn. You may have heard of Foxconn due to the dispute over working conditions from the last year or so, but this is also the place where many of the world's electronics are made. The Redmond company will now receive royalty payments for every Android and Chrome OS device that comes out of Foxconn, including but not limited to smartphones, tablets and TVs.
“We are pleased that the list of companies benefitting from Microsoft’s Android licensing program now includes the world’s largest contract manufacturer, Hon Hai,” said Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of the Intellectual Property Group at Microsoft. “By licensing both brand name companies and their contract manufacturers, we have successfully increased the overall effectiveness and global reach of the program.”
The details of this deal are undisclosed and they will probably remain so for a very long time. But it's a big deal and this will put further pressure on Android OEMs as the additional cost will most likely be passed onto them.