Microsoft and Google are exchanging public blows in the media, this time over patents. Google started the battle, but now Microsoft is launching PR missives of its own.
It all started Wednesday, when Google Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond wrote a scathing blog post about patent holders attacking Google's mobile Relevant Products/Services operating system known as Android.
"I have worked in the tech sector for over two decades," Drummond wrote. "Microsoft and Apple have always been at each other's throats, so when they get into bed together you have to start wondering what's going on ... Android's success has yielded something else: a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents."
Drummond pointed out how a consortium of tech companies, including Apple and Microsoft, banded together to outbid Google for Nortel Networks' patent portfolio. He noted how Microsoft is seeking $15 in license fees for every Android device sold and is working to make it more expensive for phone manufacturers to license Android than Windows Relevant Products/Services Phone 7. He also mentioned the lawsuits and their negative impact for consumers.
"This anticompetitive strategy is also escalating the cost of patents way beyond what they're really worth. The winning $4.5 billion for Nortel's patent portfolio was nearly five times larger than the pre-auction estimate of $1 billion," Drummond wrote. "Fortunately, the law frowns on the accumulation of dubious patents for anticompetitive means -- which means these deals are likely to draw regulatory scrutiny, and this patent bubble will pop."
The overarching message Drummond sent: Google is going to persevere with Android to ensure more customer Relevant Products/Services choice in the smartphone Relevant Products/Services marketplace.
Microsoft's Pithy Response
Frank Shaw, Microsoft's top PR exec, responded via Twitter. "Free advice for David Drummond -- next time check with Kent Walker before you blog," Shaw wrote. He added a smiley face to the message.
What did Shaw mean? Shaw was referring to an e-mail that Walker, Google's general counsel, wrote to Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith. In that e-mail, Walker declined to come in on the deal to bid jointly with Microsoft on the Novell patents currently in negotiation.
"After talking with people here, it sounds as though for various reasons a joint bid wouldn't be advisable for us on this one," Walker wrote in the e-mail. "But I appreciate your flagging it, and we're open to discussing other similar opportunities in the future."
Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, said the point of the patent consortium isn't to kill Android -- it's to protect the companies in the consortium from being sued for violating the patents because every company in the consortium is indemnified.
"The fact that the companies go after the patents and want to sue other companies that didn't participate to recoup their investment shouldn't be a surprise to anybody," Enderle said. "So you participate because the cost of not participating is too high. Evidently, Google missed that meeting and wants to blame Microsoft for it."
As Enderle sees it, Google is becoming known as the company that steals other people's intellectual property. Although Google recently purchased 1,000 of IBM's more obscure patents, the firm doesn't have a history of building a patent portfolio.
"For Google to pop up and blame their incompetence on Microsoft is like a tennis player going to a game, forgetting their racket and screaming because the other guy is still serving hard," Enderle said. "Blaming Microsoft for its own mistakes is not going to fly anyplace."