Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) could emerge as unlikely beneficiaries of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) $1 billion patent-infringement win against Samsung.
Windows Phone, which has languished with less than 3 percent of the world's smartphone market, has suddenly become a more attractive and less costly option for OEMs, according to analysts. Both Nokia and Microsoft have strong intellectual property portfolios, which make them less likely targets for patent litigation than Samsung and other handset makers using Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform.
Nokia holds more than 30,000 patents and about 10,000 patented innovations in wireless technology, and its patent portfolio is valued at $5 billion to $13 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. Meantime, Microsoft has been signing up Android OEMs, including Samsung, LG Electronics and HTC, for patent-licensing deals of its own.
"I am sure that vendors in the Android ecosystem are wondering how long it will be before they become Apple's target," Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi told Bloomberg. "This might sway some vendors to look at Windows Phone 8 as an alternative, and for the ones like HTC and even Samsung, who have already announced plans to bring to market a WP8 device, how much stronger their investment should be."
The timing of the verdict also helps Microsoft, which is preparing to unleash, via its partners, a slew of Windows Phone 8 smartphones this fall. Microsoft hopes that the new software--and added carrier support--will convince consumers to finally embrace Windows Phone.
The biggest winner may be Nokia, though the company has declined to comment on the verdict, saying that it remains committed to a policy of "active intellectual-property management" and nothing more.
"I think averting this whole mess is certainly making Nokia's decision go with Windows look smarter," Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart told FierceWireless. Nokia last year switched from its Symbian and MeeGo platforms to Microsoft's Windows Phone offering for its smartphone future.
Greengart said that manufacturers could be driven into Microsoft's arms if Android's patent-licensing costs grow too cumbersome. "If you're paying Apple and Microsoft to build an Android phone, why not just pay Microsoft for a Windows Phone license and have the IP cost built in?" he said. "The challenge is that Microsoft has not convinced consumers that Window Phone is on par with Android."
The Apple-Samsung decision isn't likely to affect wireless carriers, Greengart said. Although carriers would certainly like a stronger third smartphone platform, they are interested in selling what consumers want to buy.
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