By EVAN RAMSTAD
SEOUL—Microsoft Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. reached a patent-sharing deal, striking a blow at Google Inc.'s effort to provide free software to makers of smartphones and tablet personal computers.
For months, Microsoft and Apple Inc. have pressured Google and makers of cellphones and tablets based on its Android operating software to recognize that Android incorporates some of their designs—and either pay them or alter the products to avoid those designs.
Wednesday's agreement is an acknowledgment by Samsung, the largest maker of Android products, that Microsoft's claims could have merit and that the Korean company needed protection from them. Part of the appeal of Android has been that Google offers it free, but Wednesday's pact attaches a cost to Android, at least for Samsung.
Under the deal, Microsoft will receive royalties for Samsung's Android-based smartphones and tablets. Samsung also will work with Microsoft to develop smartphones and tablets based on Microsoft's Windows software.
Samsung, the world's No. 2 maker of cellphones after Nokia Corp., already makes Window-based smartphones, though in much smaller quantities than Android models. Samsung this month provided samples of a Windows-based tablet for programmers who participated in a Microsoft developers conference.
Microsoft already has a cross-licensing agreement with the second-largest maker of Android-based phones, Taiwan's HTC Corp.
With the Samsung agreement in hand, Microsoft issued a statement apparently to pressure cellphone-maker Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. to forge a similar deal. Microsoft and Motorola Mobility, which Google has agreed to purchase, have traded several lawsuits over whether elements of Android software copy patented Microsoft technology.
"We recognize that some businesses and commentators—Google chief among them—have complained about the potential impact of patents on Android and software innovation," Brad Smith and Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's lead in-house attorneys, said in the written statement. "To them, we say this: look at today's announcement. If industry leaders such as Samsung and HTC can enter into these agreements, doesn't this provide a clear path forward?"
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt this month expressed fear that "overbroad patents" would slow the development of mobile-computing software.
"This is the same tactic we've seen time and again from Microsoft," a Google spokeswoman said in response to Wednesday's agreement. "Failing to succeed in the smartphone market, they are resorting to legal measures to extort profit from others' achievements and hinder the pace of innovation." Apple's iOS had 18.2% of the market for smartphone operating systems in the second quarter, while Microsoft had 1.6%, according to research firm Gartner Inc. A Motorola Mobility spokeswoman said, "While we don't comment on pending litigation, we remain confident in our position and MMI will continue to defend ourselves."
Google moved into mobile-computing software two years ago, providing a free operating system to hardware manufacturers and intending to make money from expanded use of its search engine and Web products. But accusations by Microsoft and Apple that Android included their patented technologies created pressure on Android customers to recognize that the system wasn't cost-free.
Samsung and Microsoft didn't disclose precise terms of their cross-licensing deal, saying only that it provided "broad coverage for each company's products." Analysts said it is likely Samsung will make royalty payments to Microsoft for Android products.
Samsung, the world's largest technology manufacturer by revenue, has a huge patent portfolio. But rather than software, it mainly covers factory processes, components like chips and hardware products such as television sets.
The Samsung-Microsoft arrangement has no apparent impact on Samsung's litigation with Apple, a conflict that has generated attention in part because Samsung's Android-based smartphone sales have risen quickly this year to match Apple's iPhone sales volume.
Apple accused Samsung in a U.S. court of design and copyright infringements not covered in its existing cross-licenses with Microsoft or other companies. Samsung countersued in several other countries with accusations of technology-related patent infringements.
Apple and Samsung on Thursday will square off in an Australia court, where Apple is seeking an injunction to prevent sales of a Samsung tablet computer that the Cupertino, Calif., company has said too closely resembles its iPad. An Apple spokesman in Australia declined to comment on the case.
Separately, Samsung and Intel Corp. announced they would support a new operating system, called Tizen, for mobile devices and other products. The move reflects a decision by Intel to reduce support for its MeeGo software, which was hurt when Nokia shifted its support to Windows this year. The Samsung-Intel agreement is another sign that Samsung is hedging its bets in the development of mobile-computing platforms.
Tizen, like Android and MeeGo, relies partly on the widely used Linux operating system and uses an open-source development approach based on contributions from many companies and individual programmers. It will be overseen by the Linux Foundation, the nonprofit group that had helped promote MeeGo's development.
MeeGo failed to gain much traction amid competition from Android and others. Imad Sousou, director of Intel's open-source technology center, wrote in a blog that Intel concluded that the market demanded a new approach based on an increasingly popular Web programming technology called HTML5. Mr. Sousou said Intel will help programmers working with MeeGo to switch to Tizen, which is expected to be in gadgets by the middle of next year.—Amir Efrati in San Franciso and Don Clark in New York contributed to this article.
Write to Evan Ramstad at firstname.lastname@example.org
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