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Thanks to Microsoft, Apple, Nokia lawsuit/licensing triple team, OEMs might be tempted to take the deal

The Verge is citing "sources familiar with Microsoft's plan" as saying that Windows Executive Vice President (EVP) Terry Myerson is considering offering Windows RT and Windows Phone for free.  The move could be a game changer for Microsoft, which is struggling in key mobile markets including budget laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
I. Free at Last?
Some viewed Microsoft's decision to offer free upgrades to Windows 8.1 for Windows 8 users as a shift in direction; others argued that the release was analogous to a service pack, which Microsoft has traditionally released for free.
Needless to say, offering an operating system to OEMs for free would be a far greater seismic shift for Microsoft.  The "official" MSRP is $120 USD for Windows RT, but the rates that Microsoft sells it to OEMs at are individually negotiated.  According to a report by VR-Zone in mid-2012 Microsoft was asking $80-95 USD per license (with the median asking price around $85 USD) for Windows RT tablets.  Following poor pickup of Windows RT, Microsoft reportedly cut licensing fees to $30-45 USD by June 2013, according to reports by ComputerWorld and The Wall Street Journal.

Windows Phone license
Microsoft current charges anywhere from $5 to $30 USD per Windows Phone license.

In Jan. 2012, Chinese phonemaker ZTE Corp. (SHE:000063) revealed in an interview with TrustedReviews (UK) that Microsoft was charging between $20 and 30 USD per Windows Phone 8 license.  Larger OEMs have been rumored to get more favorable deals; Reuters reported in June 2011 that Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930) (the world's biggest smartphone maker) was paying only $10 USD per Windows Phone license.
Aside from ZTE's apparent tip, the closest to confirmed licensing rate info we have on Windows Phone comes from financial filings from Finnish phonemaker (and Windows Phone maker) Nokia Oyj. (HEX:NOK1V).  While there was a two-way flow of money between Microsoft and Nokia (Microsoft paid Nokia around $1B USD to use Windows Phone over Android), the net direction of the flow was to Microsoft.
Microsoft's Terry Myerson
Windows EVP Terry Myerson is considering free licensing to consumers to drive sales of mobile Windows product.

A 20-F filing by Nokia for fiscal 2012 revealed that Nokia was expected to pay Microsoft €500M ($688M USD) more than it received through the end of 2016.  Given that Nokia shipped 7m Windows Phones in Q1 20137.4m in Q2, and 8.8m in Q3, that works out to something in the neighborhood of 32-35m expected sales for 2013.  Assuming no growth (an unrealistic assumption, as Nokia doubled its Windows Phone sales from 2012 to 2013), sales should work out to 125 - 150 million units through 2016.  That's about $5 a license -- at most -- likely even less (of course, Nokia's devices unit later would be sold to Microsoft scrapping that deal).
But in October the rumor mill was buzzing following a Bloomberg report that Microsoft offered HTC Corp. (TPE:2498) free Windows phone licenses, if it commits to a large volume of handsets (perhaps exclusivity).
II. Why "Free" is Good for Microsoft's Bottom Line
In Q3 market analysis form Interactive Data Corp. (IDC) indicated sales of 8.9m Windows Phone units (indicating Nokia accounted for basically all of the platform's sales).  Windows RT -- the version of PC Windows that runs on CPUs bearing ARM Holdings plc's (LON:ARM) titular licensed architecture -- moved 200,000 units in Q2 2013 (about half a percent of the 51m+ tablets that were sold in Q2).  It's safe to assume that Q3 sales were bad or worse, given that some OEMs bailed on Windows RT with the launch of Intel Corp.'s (INTC) Bay Trail platform.

Windows RT
Windows RT sales are basically nonexistent.  [Image Source: TalkVietnam]
So Microsoft’s net loss in revenue had it offered Windows Phone and Windows RT for free to OEMs would have been around $50M USD -- a drop in the bucket for a company that made $5.24B USD last quarter in net income.
As the fall of RIM/BlackBerry demonstrated, it's absolutely vital to stay relevant in the mobile consumer market, in order to stay relevant in the enterprise market.  So it's a smart move for Microsoft to sacrifice roughly 1 percent of its net earnings if that expenditure will gain it ground in the mobile market.
That brings us to a final point -- will it work?
III. Will OEMs Quit Android to Save Money?
Currently there's only one major alternative to the Windows OS family in terms of a third party platform -- Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android OS.  Likewise on budget laptops the only widely adopted alternative is Chrome OS.  Chrome OS and Android are "free" to OEMs in the sense that Google doesn't collect license fees and offers to share advertising revenue with the OEMs.  However, these operating systems aren't truly free in the long run.
Microsoft has already scored licensing agreements from most Android OEMs, which typically fall in the $5-15 USD range.  Apple, Inc. (AAPL) seems to prefer to simply exclude competitors from the market, but it too will license in some cases (e.g. HTC).  Either way this is yet another cost that is borne by your device sales.  Lastly, there's Nokia, who arguably has the strongest patent portfolio in the industry.  Nokia is trying to squeeze yet a third licensing fee from OEMs.

Provisional patent
The Innovation Act does offer some positive patent reform. [Image Source: InvestorsEye]

The question is whether a free Windows OS would be cheaper.  You know with certainty that Microsoft won’t sue you, so that reduces your potential licensing fees to payments/lawsuits costs with Apple and Nokia.  Further, you're safe from most software patents, as Apple and Nokia have committed to licensing agreements with Microsoft.
Thus the only expense you have is potential payments on hardware infringements or infringements on design patents.  As the Nokia v. HTC conflict shows, this can still be an issue -- particularly if you buy your chips in jurisdictions where licensing deals from chipmakers don't transfer to their customers (e.g. Taiwan).  However, even if Windows Phone/Windows RT OEMs are forced into small licensing fees regarding hardware patents or small redesigns to escape design infringement claims, this still will likely be half what a top Android OEM today is paying.

The Nokia, Microsoft, and Apple patent licensing/lawsuit triple team may make the "free" Windows Phone the only financially feasible option for some OEMs, like HTC. [Image Source: NeoWin]

If Chrome OS continues to see sales success, expect at least Microsoft to start to demand similar fees from device makers.
And if H.R. 3309 Innovation Act of 2013 [PDF] -- the "Innovation Act of 2013" -- makes it through the Senate and is signed into law, that scenario could tilt even further in Microsoft favor, as it could intercede and take over some patent disputes.
Simply put together Microsoft, Apple, and Nokia are triple teaming phonemakers.  This approach may eventually make getting the licenses necessary to sell a smartphone or tablet so expensive that Android becomes financially infeasible for top OEMs.  And now Microsoft deftly maneuvering to position itself as a seeming knight in shining armor, and offering "free" licensing -- if you use its OS.
Smaller Android OEMs who might be under less legal pressure invariably will have to weigh these financial benefits against the cost of redesigning for a new operating system and the cost to users of having a more limited app selection.
But overall free licensing could be a game changer to Microsoft's mobile campaign, and help Microsoft sustain profits in the long term in the enterprise sector, which current drives most of its revenue.

Source: The Verge

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RE: Xp
By troysavary on 12/13/2013 1:48:14 AM , Rating: -1
Samsung made ads not only mocking Apple's iPhone, but mocking iPhone users. That is far worse than just mocking a product. And Apple is one of Samsung's largest partners. So why is it ok in the Android world but suddenly bad when it is MS doing it?

RE: Xp
By Monkey's Uncle on 12/13/2013 10:35:45 AM , Rating: 2
Because when MS does it it looks like a sore loser pouting & throwing a tantrum.

It is like the guy who comes in 3rd in a 3-person race pointing at the winner and saying "he can't run - he should not have won!". Everybody looks at the loser as throwing a tantrum like a spoiled kid because he lost.

However when the winner points back at the 3rd place guy and says "he lost because he can't run", everybody looks at the winner and says, yeah, you are right - after all you won the race. Sure the winner is rubbing the loser's nose in it, but he has won the right.

RE: Xp
By Just Tom on 12/14/2013 12:50:00 PM , Rating: 2
Your analogy fails because MS was knocking Chromebooks. In the race between Windows and Chrome OS MS wins so handily it is a stretch to call it a race.

People treat normal business competition as if it is some sort of sporting event. If their 'team' engages in some practice it is ok, if the other 'team' does it is not.

RE: Xp
By Monkey's Uncle on 12/14/2013 2:44:08 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed that chrome hasn't even gotten in the race, however I only see Microsoft knocking them as yet another sign that they are butthurt from getting it kicked by not only Android but iOS as well. Sore losers tend to do that.

But sore losers also try sucking in OEMs by giving away their lame software since they are already well aware that those OEMs certainly won't actually pay them for it.

RE: Xp
By Just Tom on 12/14/2013 5:45:33 PM , Rating: 2
So is Google a butthurt sore loser since it gives away Android? When Samsung introduced a$250 Chromebook after its initial offerings were knocked as underpowered and overpriced was it actuation like a butthurt sore loser? These companies were making decisions based on market forces, so is Microsoft.

Windows Phone is not succeeding, MicroSoft does not have to be a 'butthurt sore loser' to realize it needs to change its mobile business model.

RE: Xp
By Monkey's Uncle on 12/14/2013 8:33:16 PM , Rating: 2
Not sure why you keep harping about chromebooks. Attempting to derail the topic doesn't change the fact that Microsoft has one sore ass from all of the vendors that had licensed their software jumping ship when they bought Nokia's hardware div.

Are they butthurt?

They sure are by posting a video that compares a network appliance with a full blow laptop computer when anybody with half a brain knows they are not the same thing. Is ChromeOS a stand-alone operating system. No. So frigging what?

Why are they butthurt?

They are sitting in 3rd place in the most lucrative mobile device market. Apple and Google's hardware partners are all taking turns raping them in mobile sales. They are so butthurt they have to try and lure in hardware vendors with free Windows licenses. And we all know what happens to free Microsoft licenses when the next release comes out don't we ;)

Why should Google have a sore rump for giving away Android? Android is and always has been OPEN SOURCE. Just like LINUX. They have more vendors using their ALWAYS FREELY AVAILABLE software than any other MOBILE OPERATING SYSTEM vendor in the world. About the last thing anybody can call Google is butthurt.

Does that make Microsoft's backside just a teensy bit sore? I'm sure it does.

RE: Xp
By Just Tom on 12/14/2013 9:51:41 PM , Rating: 2
Chromebooks were brought up by another post way up the thread, not by me. And Google is not marketing Chromebooks as a network appliance, they are marketing them as a computer. The aim is to compete with Windows. From Google's website
"The Chromebook Family. Starting at $199. A new type of computer with everything built-in." ChromeOS is competing with Windows, is MS not supposed to respond?

I did not call Google butthurt, I happen to think their business model is genius. However, I don't think MS is butthurt either (and that is the absolute last time I will type that word), they are adjusting their business model because it is not working. Something Google has also done often.

No, tell me what happens to free Microsoft licenses when the next release comes out since I don't recall MS ever offering free OS licenses. Are you telling me that if Samsung signs on to make more Windows phones they are not smart enough to craft a contract that protects their investment?

I don't understand the need to personalize business decisions. If MS changes its strategy to offering free OS licenses it won't be because it is angry, it will be because it thinks it can make more money that way.

RE: Xp
By Reclaimer77 on 12/15/2013 5:27:56 AM , Rating: 2
Windows Phone is not succeeding, MicroSoft does not have to be a 'butthurt sore loser' to realize it needs to change its mobile business model.

I don't think most of us WANT to see Windows Phone succeed frankly.

Microsoft has dominated the desktop OS for decades now. And they have often used their market position in...questionable ways.

Do we really want to see that all over again on smartphones and tablets? Does Microsoft need TWO near monopolies? I don't see any possible future where that results in a better experience for the end user.

RE: Xp
By Monkey's Uncle on 12/15/2013 11:14:27 AM , Rating: 2
Microsoft has dominated the desktop OS for decades now. And they have often used their market position in...questionable ways.

Do we really want to see that all over again on smartphones and tablets? Does Microsoft need TWO near monopolies? I don't see any possible future where that results in a better experience for the end user.

Never fear bro. They have to get past Google and Apple to do that and my friend just ain't gonna happen.

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