The tech blogosphere lit up yesterday when Tom Warren, in his inimitable way, floated a trial balloon for Microsoft. Quoting unnamed sources, Warren said that "Microsoft is considering making Windows Phone and Windows RT available free of charge to device makers."
Although the freebies wouldn't appear until the Windows Threshold wave hits, apparently planned for Q2 2015, and we've already heard that kind of free Windows talk for HTC, this proposal accomplishes much while costing Microsoft basically nothing. In short, it's a stellar idea. Do the math.
A month ago, IDC reported that "by itself, Nokia accounted for 93.2 percent of all the Windows Phone-powered smartphones shipped during the quarter." With Nokia headed to the Microsoft side of the force early next year, a huge chunk of Windows Phone software royalties (which because of the terms of an old Microsoft-Nokia deal aren't really being paid anyway) will devolve into an internal transfer.
That much is obvious. Here's the part that isn't.
Analysts tend to think of Android as a Google product -- it isn't; it's a Microsoft product. At least, when a manufacturer puts Android on a phone or tablet, the company has to pay Microsoft not Google. Android isn't free; it's a major revenue source for Microsoft. According to Rick Sherlund, a very-well-connected analyst who works for Nomura, Microsoft's making about $2 billion a year from Android patent royalties. Apparently all of the major phone and tablet manufacturers (except, presumably, Apple) and many of the smaller ones (except, presumably, Google-owned Motorola) are paying the Redmond piper for every copy of Android they bundle.