The last time we checked in with HTC, Apple was trying to sue its pants off for patent infringement. Now, the Taiwanese cell-phone maker has forged a major patent deal with Microsoft. What's this all about? At first blush, bloggers jumped the gun (yes, even The Washington Post) saying Microsoft was giving HTC ammunition to fend off its Apple lawsuit. But that assumption appears to be too simplistic. Here's a deeper look at what might be going on:

  • Microsoft and HTC and Google vs. Apple? MG Siegler at TechCrunch posits the initial theory: "This seems to be Microsoft lending its (undoubtedly massive) arsenal of patents to help HTC and Google combat Apple (though, naturally, the rationale behind the deal -- and Apple -- are never named)."
  • Nope, That's Wrong, writes Todd Bishop at Tech Flash: "It might seem that Microsoft, through the deal, is providing its partner with IP ammunition to use in its defense against Apple, Microsoft's longtime rival. But that isn't what's happening. Instead, the deal represents Microsoft drawing a line in the sand against its other archrival, Google -- and asserting that Microsoft, like Apple, believes Android infringes on its patents. The HTC deal represents the first in what Microsoft hopes will be a series of patent peace accords with Android device makers."
  • Here's My Guess  Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry at Business Insider writes, "The Microsoft-HTC deal probably makes sense for HTC since they also make a lot of Windows Mobile phones and presumably don't want to damage their relationship with Microsoft. Such an agreement -- implicitly confirming that Android does infringe on Microsoft IP -- would probably give Microsoft legal ammunition against other Android handset makers, or possibly Google itself."
  • Maybe This Is More About Linux, writes Mary-Jo Foley at ZDNet: "Android is a Linux-based operating system, and Microsoft has been waging a campaign to get Linux distribution vendors and their OEMs to sign intellectual property (IP) licensing pacts over the past couple of years." Still she has questions. "Does the Microsoft-HTC patent agreement mean we can expect to see Microsoft weigh in on the Apple vs. HTC patent infringement matter? Or is the Microsoft-HTC deal just one more example (with more mobile-phone makers possibly to come) of Linux companies attempting to head off potential Microsoft lawsuits involving Linux?"
  • Throwing in Another Guess Siegler adds: "This deal may have more to do with HTC covering itself if Microsoft decides to go after Google. But it's hard to know for sure at this point."