Microsoft "loves" open source, but it's not crazy about Android

Microsoft sues Motorola for patent infringement

A Microsoft executive recently claimed that "we love open source," but the company's new-found affinity for open source software does not seem to apply to Google's Android mobile operating system.

Microsoft today filed a legal action against Motorola, claiming that the company infringes on nine Microsoft patents in its Android-based smartphones. The legal action will go before the International Trade Commission and U.S. District Court in Washington state.

Microsoft: "We love open source"

Microsoft has a long, complicated history with open source, with CEO Steve Ballmer once calling Linux a "cancer." But Microsoft has shed some of its anti-Linux and anti-open source stances, with moves such as last year's submission of device drivers to the Linux kernel.

Just this week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Apache Foundation threw their support behind Microsoft in a patent infringement case that could ultimately hit the Supreme Court.

But Microsoft's stance toward Android has continually showed that the company's relationship with at least some segments of the open source community remains contentious. Earlier this year, Microsoft forced HTC to pay it royalties for intellectual properties used in Android phones.

Today's action against Motorola expands Microsoft's battle against Android as the company tries to ramp up its own mobile phone aspirations with Windows Phone 7.

"The patents at issue relate to a range of functionality embodied in Motorola's Android smartphone devices that are essential to the smartphone user experience, including synchronizing email, calendars and contacts, scheduling meetings, and notifying applications of changes in signal strength and battery power," Microsoft deputy general counsel Horacio Gutierrez said in a written statement. "We have a responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard the billions of dollars we invest each year in bringing innovative software products and services to market. Motorola needs to stop its infringement of our patented inventions in its Android smartphones."

While Android owners are likely to use Gmail, they're also connecting to work email systems, which typically means hooking the phone up to a Microsoft Exchange server.

Gutierrez also blogged about Microsoft's action, saying "our technology enables people to see their calendar and email contacts on their phone, and to manage their calendar and contacts from whatever device they are using."

Motorola poses a threat to Microsoft because it makes some of the most popular Android phones on the market, including the Motorola Droid and now the Droid 2 and Droid X.

The Microsoft vs. Motorola patent case has just emerged and Motorola hasn't responded yet, but we'll be sure to keep Network World readers up to date.

UPDATE: Motorola has issued a very brief statement regarding the lawsuit, which says "Motorola has not received a copy of the complaint, therefore we cannot comment at this point. Motorola has a leading intellectual property portfolio, one of the strongest in the industry. The company will vigorously defend itself in this matter." 

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