“Android isn’t free.”

Farhad Manjoo, Slate:

In other words—and I never thought I’d say this—Steve Ballmer was right. Android isn’t free. In fact, it’s not even cheap. As Daring Fireball’s John Gruber points out, the $12.5 billion that Google is spending for Motorola amounts to almost two years’ worth of the search company’s profits. No company—not even Google—can throw around that kind of cash without envisioning a direct return on its investment.

So how does Google envision getting a return on its investment in Motorola Mobility?

[…] But the terrific Nexus line of Android phones that Google has built suggests that it knows how to make great phones. With the Motorola acquisition, it will have the opportunity to push out such high-end phones to the mainstream market. […]

Update:

Android is not free, you have to pay Microsoft to use it.

Absolutely on the dot, by MG Sieger. In October 2010, The Wall Street Journal‘s Nick Wingfield asked if charging a license fee to OEMs for Windows Phone 7 is difficult when Android is free. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s answer in that interview:

Android has a patent fee. It’s not like Android’s free. You do have to license patents. HTC’s signed a license with us and you’re going to see license fees clearly for Android as well as for Windows.

Ballmer couldn’t have been more right. There is little doubt Microsoft is collecting significantly more license fees from Android OEMs than from WP7 OEMs. Actually, except for Nokia and Motorola, aren’t they one and the same? Corporate vice president and deputy general counsel, Intellectual Property Group at Microsoft, Horacio Gutierrez on LG deciding to pay up:

We are pleased to have built upon our longstanding relationship with LG to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. Together with our 10 previous agreements with Android and Chrome OS device manufacturers, including HTC, Samsung and Acer, this agreement with LG means that more than 70 percent of all Android smartphones sold in the U.S. are now receiving coverage under Microsoft’s patent portfolio.

More than 70%. Add to this the skyrocketing legal fees fighting Apple and Android becomes downright expensive.