A little help from your enemies
Google's Android mobile platform in having to endure a sustained legal assault on many fronts. Oracle is suing Google directly for alleged infringements of its Java software, and wants billions of dollars in compensation, but possibly the most damaging is the proxy battle being waged against Android OEMs by Apple, and to a lesser extent Microsoft.
With the exception of accusing Samsung of copying its hardware designs, Apple's legal conflicts with HTC and Motorola concern software generally presumed to be intrinsic to the Android platform. It should be noted that all the companies concerned have also initiated legal action against Apple.
While Microsoft has also attacked Android OEMs, its primary motive seems to be to extract licensing fees, as it has with HTC and a bunch of other manufacturers. While the money no doubt comes in handy, it could be argued that the bigger gain for Microsoft would be to encumber Android with so much additional expense for OEMs as to make the main alternative - its own, currently struggling, WP7 - relatively good value.
So far, if HTC is anything to go by, the additional cost of paying Microsoft its patent tax has been insufficient to lessen the general commitment to Android. But if Apple succeeds in its legal action against HTC - as it took one step closer to doing yesterday - Microsoft could have found an unlikely accomplice in its bid to own the dominant mobile platform for OEMs who don't have their own.
Not only does the prospect of Apple succeeding in its action against Android OEMs raise the prospect of having to pay Apple licensing fees, but Apple could also sue for damages and use bodies such as the ITC to prevent OEMs selling their phones in the US. This raises the stakes for those OEMs from inconvenience to outright disaster.
For this reason it's safe to assume, as is being loosely rumoured, that OEMs are stepping up their support of WP7 as a contingency against the Android situation worsening. When I visited HTC recently it was made clear to me that HTC's commitment to WP7 was unwavering, if only to ensure it didn't have all its eggs in one basket. Meanwhile Microsoft is overtly courting Android developers by trying to make it as easy as possible for them to port their apps to WP7.
So far Google doesn't seem to have done too much to protect Android OEMs. It pulled out of a recent patent auction when the price got silly, and has mainly left the handset-makers to fight their own battles, despite the fact that many of them appear to be proxy attacks on Android. Having said that Google chairman Eric Schmidt recently promised Google would help HTC in its legal battle with Apple, without specifying how.
With the new version of WP7 set to become available before the end of this year, as well as Nokia's much anticipated WP7 offering, I wouldn't be surprised to see WP7 gather a fair bit of momentum going into 2012. Its existing OEMs - HTC, Samsung and LG - will probably be joined by the likes of Huawei and ZTE, as it becomes clear that platform diversity is a vital strategy in these litigious times.
Talking of NokiaSoft, another bit of claimed footage of the first handset to emerge from their union has ‘leaked' (I reckon Nokia CEO Stephen Elop is a big fan of the ‘controlled leak'), from what appears to be a factory in the middle of a war zone. I've embedded it for your incremental pleasure below.