Say you're making phones or tablets and Microsoft comes to you with an offer: Either you pay the agreed-upon patent royalty for Android or you can have Windows Phone/RT for free.
Tough choice, eh? But wait, it gets better.
When Microsoft bought Nokia's mobile business, there was a term to their agreement that didn't draw much comment at the time: Microsoft bought a 10-year license for Nokia's patents but it didn't buy the patents themselves. As Matt Asay at Readwrite so astutely put it, "The real money, however, isn't in Microsoft delving deeper into Android patent royalties. Rather, it's in letting Nokia do it."
So the offer to phone manufacturers from Microsoft next year will look like this: Pay the patent royalty for Android and get your lawyers lined up to fight Nokia -- hey, Microsoft doesn't control Nokia! Or you can have Windows Phone/RT for free, and as an added perk we'll indeminify Windows Phone from any patent lawsuits.
Ding, ding, ding. It's a win-win-win situation.
Microsoft doesn't have to put advertising on Windows Phone or RT in order to make up for lost revenue. All it has to do is clean up the Windows Store to turn a tidy profit. Then there's the halo effect -- the "buy into an environment" argument. Just as iOS devices are propelling the Apple juggernaut, a successful Windows Phone/RT could well play into Microsoft's long-term game with BYOD and the whole corporate shtick.
Windows Phone and Windows RT are turning into the same product in the Threshold timeline -- at least that's the plan. Making the "Metro" consumer version -- the least capable of the three projected Windows versions -- a free product and getting it onto millions of portable devices could make Microsoft a whole lot more money than trying to sell the OS piecemeal, mostly to its own Nokia division.
Strap me down and slap me silly. I think I'm turning into a Terry Myerson fanboy.
This story, "How free Windows Phone/RT software could pay off big for Microsoft," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.