Will Microsoft's Posse Kill Android?

When Novell (Nasdaq: NOVL  ) went out in a blaze of glory and complicated patent sales, I wondered aloud whether its implosion would hurt or help fellow Linux operator Red Hat (NYSE: RHT  ) . That was the wrong question to ask.

Instead, I should have wondered whether Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) wasn't getting in on the deal, in order to put a hurting on Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) .

Papers filed to German antitrust authorities reveal that the Microsoft-led consortium that bought 882 Novell patents is an all-star cast. The four known members of that consortium are -- and make sure you're sitting down for this:

  • Microsoft, of course
  • EMC (NYSE: EMC  )
  • Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  )
  • Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  )

When was the last time you saw Microsoft and Oracle agree on anything? How about Microsoft and Apple? If nothing else, the three companies share a scathing enmity towards Google's Android operations, which step on the toes of Apple's iPhone, threaten to overthrow Microsoft's Windows hegemony, and supposedly infringe on Oracle's Java patents.

The odd duck out is EMC, which doesn't seem to have any reason to hate Android and actually released a high-profile security product for the platform earlier this week. Perhaps the storage giant simply sees value in the Novell portfolio and wants a share of the profits when this new joint venture starts monetizing the patents. The rest would love to corner that cuddly green robot in a dark alley and have it erased from mobile computing history. Patents are just a convenient weapon.

An insider from one of the four companies tells AllThingsD that "it’s cheap defensive insurance" against unnamed threats. Me, I'm just waiting for the new venture to open up a can of Android litigation, now that it's armed with Novell's tasty patents.

Is Android coming under heavy fire here. Would a passel of patent suits hurt Google's mobile efforts? Discuss in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Oracle. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.


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  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2010, at 3:12 PM, drvacmd1 wrote:

    Wouldn't it make sense, if your argument is valid, for Google to buy Novell? Cheap insurance and Schmidt is intimately familiar with the company. Surprised you didn't suggest this posibility in your column.

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2010, at 4:45 PM, TMFZahrim wrote:

    Mm, but that would start a bidding war, which is not something Google has been known to do. Remember, Novell has a firm offer on the table and little incentive to hook up with anyone else at this point. Good point about former Novell CEO Schmidt, though.

    Anders

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