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22 May 12 Why China Stuck Its Foot in Android’s Door

China’s antitrust authorities have approved Google’s (Nasdaq: GOOG) purchase of Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI), on the condition that the Android operating system remains open source and its code is made freely available to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

Android devices had nearly 74 percent of the Chinese market in Q4, 2011, and that — together with Google’s large war chest, technical expertise and the high market barriers to entry into the mobile market — means Android is in a dominant position, China’s Commerce Department said.

“Our stance since we agreed to acquire Motorola has not changed, and we look forward to closing the deal,” Google spokesperson Niki Fenwick told LinuxInsider.

“Android is clearly a key platform for many Chinese manufacturers of devices, and the vertical integration of software and hardware between Google and Motorola appears to have spooked the Chinese,” Al Hilwa, a program director at IDC, said.

Terms of Android Endearment

The agreement will last for five years. Google will have to file a report with China’s Commerce Department every six months. After the five years are up, the department will reassess the situation.

Google must ensure that current and future versions of the Android open software stack are available under a free and open software license consistent with current business practices, China’s Commerce Department said.

However, apps on the platform and related services can be closed source.

Sharing Out the Android Pie

China requires that Google offers Android in a non-discriminatory manner to OEMs who have agreed not to differentiate the platform or create derivatives. Google also has to comply with the existing fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) rules governing Motorola Mobility.

FRAND is the touchstone of much litigation between companies in the mobile market, such as Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), Motorola Mobility and Samsung.

If market conditions or the state of competition in the market change, Google can apply to modify or rescind the requirements for free and open licensing and for offering the Android platform without discrimination to OEMs. Further, these two requirements will no longer apply if Google in essence doesn’t own Motorola Mobility.

“I’m not sure if Google had to take anything off the table to reach this agreement,” Michael Morgan, a senior analyst at ABI Research, told LinuxInsider.

Why Focus on Openness?

Android has always been open source, and “I don’t think there’s much danger of Google taking Android to a single hardware OEM or leveraging it in any way other than through open source and free licensing in the short term,” IDC’s Hilwa told LinuxInsider.

“You don’t compete with Apple with another fully integrated single device; you out-flank them with a diametrically opposed strategy , which is what Google succeeded in doing with Android,” Hilwa continued.

On the other hand, “think about the language and messaging Google has put around the Motorola [Mobility] acquisition,” ABI’s Morgan pointed out. “It’s a separate business unit and will be run as a separate business.”

If Google gave Motorola Mobility preferential or sole access to Android source code and ran for-fee services on the platform, it “will have hardware all the way up to the Internet, and that will be a lot of power for one company to have, seeing that Google pretty much owns the Internet and Android is strong in the mobile market,” Morgan said.

Where’s Android Going?

“Keeping it open should help improve the amount of features and stuff that are added,” ABI’s Morgan said. “There are Chinese versions of Android out there, and what they and Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) have done is just tweak Android; the core kernel remains the same.”

Being open “does not mean being unchanged,” IDC’s Hilwa asserted. “I expect Android to evolve vigorously over the next five years.”

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28 Apr 12 Microsoft Inks Android Patent Agreement with Pegatron


Microsoft Inks Android Patent Agreement with Pegatron

With the Pegatron deal in process, Microsoft claims to have rolled up agreements with nearly all of the Taiwan-based original design manufacturers.

Microsoft has signed a patent agreement with Taiwan-based device manufacturer Pegatron Corp. over its use of Google Android and Chrome software.

With the Pegatron deal in process, Microsoft claims to have rolled up agreements with nearly all of the Taiwan-based original design manufacturers (ODMs).

“With this agreement, Microsoft has now licensed four of the top five Taiwanese ODMs,” said Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of the Intellectual Property Group at Microsoft, in a statement.

The announcement issued this week by Microsoft stated that Pegatron will pay Microsoft royalties under the agreement, which covers “eReaders, smartphones and tablets running the Android or Chrome platforms.” By “Chrome platforms,” Microsoft has in the past been referring to Google Chrome OS, the cloud-based operating system, rather than Google Chrome, the Web browser. However, Microsoft’s announcement did not provide clarification on the matter.

Taiwan-based Pegatron describes itself as a design and manufacturing service that was founded in January of 2008. It makes computer equipment, set-top boxes, TVs, wireless systems and game consoles.

Mobile Patent Wars

Last year, Gutierrez claimed that Microsoft had signed intellectual property licensing agreements with “more than half of the world’s ODM industry for Android and Chrome devices.” This year, Microsoft claimed that it had inked intellectual property deals with manufacturers covering 70 percent of all Android devices that are sold in the United States.

Microsoft’s attorneys have generally claimed that use of Linux operating systems in products violates 235 of Microsoft’s patents, without specifying what those patents are. One by one over the years, Microsoft has sought intellectual property licensing deals with hardware device makers using Linux. Many equipment makers have signed the agreements and didn’t go to court to dispute Microsoft’s claims. Exceptions include Barnes Noble, which is defending intellectual property claims against its Nook e-reader devices and Motorola.

Microsoft isn’t the only litigant in these patent wars centering on mobile device software technologies. Apple too is an active litigant suing companies using Linux operating systems. Those legal actions have put a crimp on Google’s plans of leveraging mobile devices for its search advertising business. Google fostered the Linux-based Android mobile OS that is used in various hardware devices by manufacturers, which don’t pay royalties to Google to use it.

Xbox In the Sights

Google is in the process of acquiring Motorola Mobility to bulk up its patents portfolio for legal defensive reasons. Even though Google’s proposed purchase hasn’t yet cleared regulatory approvals, the acquisition bid appears to be raising alarms with Microsoft and Apple, particularly over Motorola’s interpretation of standards-essential patents use rights. Supposedly, these sorts of patents are to be made available on “fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory” (FRAND) terms so that all organizations using standards-based technologies can operate, but it’s apparently somewhat of a gray area as to what that exactly means.

Motorola currently wants 2.25 percent of Microsoft Xbox gaming console net sales as royalties for its patents, which are associated with wireless LAN and H.264 video codec standards-based technologies. Microsoft and Apple have separately complained to the European Commission, claiming Motorola (and potentially Google) is abusing FRAND principles by its demands.

Microsoft recently got a reprieve against a potential injunction against Xbox sales in Germany, where the litigation is continuing. Meanwhile, a U.S. International Trade Commission court found this week that Microsoft is violating four of five Motorola Mobility patents with Xbox. That finding could lead to a U.S. ban on the importation of Xbox devices unless Microsoft pays royalties to Motorola, according to a Bloomberg story.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.

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