If Samsung is made to pay this fee in the near future, as Microsoft is trying to do, it will be the end of Android as a free OS. If to this we add the fact that both Microsoft and HP are now offering their own rival mobile OSes backed by a vast array of patent protection, some of Android's OEM partners may begin to think twice about their firm Android commitments. Android as a free mobile OS that rivals iOS in terms of functionality is an unbelievable proposition. But Android as an OS that requires you to pay Microsoft for each unit shipped is less so.
Google's last great chance to save Android in this regard may have been the Nortel patent purse with over 6,000 patents spanning LTE, wireless video, Wi-Fi and Internet search innovations. Unfortunately, the search giant lost the rights to those patents in a bidding war against its rivals.
The bidding was an long and exciting game where, after 19 rounds, Rockstar (Apple, RIM, EMC, Ericsson, Sony and Microsoft) paid $4.5 billion for the patents leaving Ranger (Google and Intel) out of the game. Apple reportedly paid $2 billion for 'outright ownership' of the set of LTE patents, RIM and Ericsson paid $1.1 billion together for a license to the portfolio. In addition, RIM will receive Canadian tax breaks for shouldering some of Nortel's operating losses and could potentially break even on the deal. Lastly, storage maker EMC is said to have negotiated a side deal for exclusive ownership of a small set of patents.
Legal experts have noted that Apple, with close to $70 billion in cash reserves, could have purchased the patents on its own and may have chosen to partner with others in order to diminish the chances of the deal being blocked over anti-trust concerns. Granted, Google, which itself holds around £37 billion in liquid assets, could also have bought the portfolio and still be left with almost 80% of its cash intact. Then, if these patents are really this important for Android's survival, why not shed the cash and place itself way ahead of all the competition? Furthermore, with Intel - and its also very deep pockets - as partner-in-crime, why did they not go all out for the bid?
One interesting reason has been voiced by Bodgam Dimitru, a BlackBerry enthusiast and proud Canadian: Google will buy Research in Motion. Dimitru goes as far as to detail 10 'logical reasons' why this acquisition makes sense. Perhaps the most interesting ones:
1) Mobile Patents: Not only would Google get RIM's patents, it would also get Google into the Nortel patent acquisition that we have been speaking about in the above paragraphs and for much less than the full price...
2) QNX: The foundation of the new BlackBerry Tablet OS and future QNX-based BlackBerry 'superphones' is literally a drop-in replacement for the Android's Linux Kernel thanks to its POSIX compliance. Key benefits include improved stability, better security and ease of rolling out new hardware.
3) Enterprise: In a world where Google owns RIM and there's a QNX kernel on Android, targeting enterprise clients becomes viable for Android.
4) Carrier Relationships: RIM has done a great job over the years at expanding its footprint around the globe by building great partnerships with carriers, which would only help Google expand across all markets.
5) Existing Commitment to Android: RIM has already announced support for Android apps on the BlackBerry PlayBook and future QNX-based BlackBerry smartphones, which clearly shows that Android on BlackBerry is already doable.
Granted, none of this will happen if RIM can turn things around but, if worse comes to worse, this acquisition could open a brand new world of opportunities for both companies.