Microsoft: Apple vs. HTC “Positive Development”

And yes, the legal news just continues to come. With high-profile lawsuits going on in the world of technology (Nokia vs. Apple, Apple vs. HTC), we really can’t get around lots and lots of news about the subject. This latest tidbit we have for you is most interesting, and only serves to further confirm the rumours that Bing might become the default on the iPhone: Microsoft has more or less endorsed Apple’s lawsuit against HTC.

Brier Dudley, writing for the Seattle Times, details a speech given to an audience of IP and copyright lawyers at the Washington State Convention Center. The speech was given by Brad Smith, Microsoft’s General Counsel and Senior Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs. In it, Smith approved of Apple’s lawsuit against HTC.

“After explaining how crucial patent protection is to innovation and progress, Smith gave a nod of support for Apple’s patent suit against HTC, the Taiwanese company that makes most of the Google-powered smartphones,” Dudley details, “Smith suggested taking a broader and more sympathetic view of Apple’s case, saying “the fact that there’s litigation in this area is not necessarily a bad thing”.”

Of course, Microsoft is a company built on licensing, and as such, the mobile space sorting out who owns what on both the hard and software front is a good thing. About 5.5% of a smartphone’s cost is licensing costs to Qualcomm for the radio technology, while another 1 or 2% goes to licensing media software (codecs, I’m assuming).

“Now the question of the day is, how will patent licensing work for the software and other information-technology layers that actually make up an increasingly large percentage of the value of a smartphone,” Smith wondered. He claims it will be about 5-10% within three to five years.

After the speech, Dudley asked Smith about the HTC lawsuit specifically. “I think it’s premature to endorse or offer any other reaction to it,” Smith replied, “But as I mentioned, the fact that there are efforts to sort out these issues are on balance a positive development for the market because they typically take an important role in sorting this kind of issue out.”

“[Apple and Microsoft] have a lot of close ties and good relationships,” Smith added, “It doesn’t mean we always agree on everything. But it means we have the ability to talk and understand what we’re each trying to accomplish.”

And you’re still wondering whether or not Microsoft is trying to get Bing on the iPhone? With Jobs’ sense of betrayal regarding Google, I wouldn’t be surprised to actually see Bing as the default in the next iPhone OS update. We geeks might like to think it’s Apple vs. Microsoft, but despite the occasional bump in the road, the two companies have always been relatively friendly towards one another, a relationship further solidified in 1997. The two giants mostly work around one another, as evidenced by the meticulousness with which Apple avoided angering Microsoft in the HTC lawsuit.

The big question is this: will we still be able to switch back to Google, or does Jobs’ hate run that deep?


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