Apple and Android handset manufacturer HTC have announced a settlement of their ongoing Android patent dispute. What does this means for the future of Android? Is it good news or bad?
A joint press release from Apple and HTC issued on November 10, 2012 states:
HTC and Apple have reached a global settlement that includes the dismissal of all current lawsuits and a ten-year license agreement. The license extends to current and future patents held by both parties.
The press release puts a positive spin on the settlement of behalf of that both parties:
“HTC is pleased to have resolved its dispute with Apple, so HTC can focus on innovation instead of litigation,” said Peter Chou, CEO of HTC.
“We are glad to have reached a settlement with HTC,” said Tim Cook, CEO of Apple. “We will continue to stay laser focused on product innovation.”
Although the terms of the settlement are confidential, analysts suggest Apple is likely to get approximately $6-$8 per smartphone. HTC also reportedly pays Microsoft $5 for every Android-phone it sells so now its profits will be dented $11-$13 per phone for patents.
According to Florian Mueller, on his FOSS patents blog:
The settlement is surprising and unsurprising at the same time. The timing wasn't expected since neither party had massive leverage over the other, but it makes a whole lot of sense that Apple would settle with HTC, and that HTC would accept the terms Apple has imposed prior to other Apple-Android settlements.
There are plenty of other Apple-Android disputes for Apple to turn its attention to: Samsung, Motorola, and Amazon are all current or potential targets.
Florian Muller's take is:
Google should finally recognize that Android devices need patent licenses, that Android is not free no matter how often Google says so, and that one Android device maker after the other will seek licensing arrangements with Apple, Microsoft, Nokia and other significant patent holders.
Notice the important words - Android is not free no matter how often Google says so.
If Android manufacturers come to accept that no matter how ridiculous patents are they still have the force of law, then perhaps it is all up for Android in the "free as in beer" meaning. But what does this mean for "free as in speech". If Android has to be paid for at every turn, perhaps a proprietary rather than open solution is the best.