Google's proposed acquisition of Motorola has obliged one operator to look more closely at Windows Mobile. So says Inq boss Frank Meehan, who runs the Hutchison-owned handset company. He has a very interesting reason, which might surprise some of you.
Inq puts its own UI on Android, as seen here
with the Cloud Touch
Meehan says he thinks that the software cost of Windows Phone may now be lower than that of an Android phone. Android is nominally free: you download it and compile it. But the sticker price of the OS doesn't reflect the final software cost. A manufacturer needs to stump up for the royalties covering the wireless stacks. They may also be hit by other, unexpected royalty demands. And that makes Android a lot more uncertain than a supplier who can guarantee no nasty surprises, or insure against them.
"The advantages with Windows Mobile are that the legal issues and resulting costs seem to be much less," Meehan told GigaOm.
Google has refused to indemnify its licensees against patent trolls, leaving them to fend for themselves. And this means the cost of nasty surprises can add up when the final Bill of Materials is calculated. According to one analyst, Microsoft dinged HTC – the largest Android ODM by volume according to some estimates – for $5 per unit in royalties. It is a handy way for Redmond to compete with a free platform.
Inq was set up to create phones for Hutch-owned Three networks.
Meehan says other manufacturers are looking for alternatives too. True or bluff? As I wrote here last week, Android has received huge investment from licensees. And there's no immediate alternative they can jump to. Acquiring Motorola doesn't solve any immediate legal battles and until Google uses it to throw a protective umbrella around its Android licensees, it is useless. ®