Photo: Associated Press
Microsoft thinks it has patents that allow it to get a licence fee from Android, and now it’s suing Barnes & Noble over its Nook tablet, which is powered by Android.Many people are howling that this is a ridiculous shakedown, and of course it is. But it’s not Microsoft who’s the villain here, it’s the patent system.
Because most countries have a very restrictive legal system around software patents, and accept vaguely-worded patents, we live in a world where everyone can sue everyone, from big companies to patent trolls, and big companies have to buy up huge patent portfolios just for “defensive” reasons. Everyone tries to shake everyone down, regardless of the actual merits of who built the software and who had the idea and the know-how to make it.
Microsoft is a software company that makes money by selling licences to use software. When Microsoft first got started, the idea that you could make money that way seemed far-fetched at best.
And now Google is coming out with an open source operating system which isn’t just free to use, but includes an ad revenue share with carriers, which means Verizon and their ilk are going from paying for software to getting paid to use software. And while this has been unquestionably good for Google, it’s unclear whether that’s good for consumers, who get Android phones loaded with crapware added by those same carriers.
So of course Microsoft is going to respond with the tools it has, to make sure Android has a “price” for the companies that use it, just the way Windows does. If you think this is bad for consumers, don’t blame Microsoft, blame the patent system it’s using. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.