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Honeywell and Microsoft Ink Android IP Deal

Honeywell announced last week that it paid royalties to Microsoft for the use of technologies associated with the Linux-based Android and Google Chrome OS operating systems.

The intellectual property (IP) licensing deal was tucked into Honeywell's announcement of its first Android-based enterprise digital assistant product for mobile workers and sales personnel. The company unveiled its new Dolphin 7800 Android product on Thursday, which works with Honeywell's Remote MasterMind 3.0 device management software, enabling configuration, strong password protection and asset tracking.

The patent licensing deal was struck between Microsoft and Honeywell's Scanning and Mobility segment. Although the terms of the deal and the IP involved weren't identified, John Waldron, president of Honeywell Scanning and Mobility, indicated in a released statement why Honeywell paid royalties to Microsoft -- to support developers and the partner network.

"To provide our customers with the best range of tools for success, we signed a license agreement with Microsoft that will allow Honeywell to offer the Android-based Dolphin 7800 to our network of partners around the world."

Honeywell announced a new developer program for Android-compatible devices. It was rolled out to give independent software developers some time before the Dolphin 7800 Android product launch. The company also offers the Dolphin 7800 running the Microsoft Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 operating system.

Honeywell has a wide-ranging business line, including work in the defense industries. It's Automation and Controls Solutions business group, of which the Scanning and Mobility segment is a part, took in $3.96 billion during the company's fiscal second quarter.

Smartphone Mobile OS Wars
Microsoft has mostly seen success with mobile smartphone makers in wresting IP deals associated with Android use, which is part of a broader competition in the mobile OS space. Company officials have recently claimed that Microsoft has signed IP deals with about 70 percent of U.S. original equipment manufacturers using Android, a mobile OS that was fostered by Google. Android-associated royalties collected from Samsung and HTC totaled up to $792 million for Microsoft in its second quarter, according to financial analysts at Trefis, as reported in a BGR story.

Microsoft currently trails badly in the smartphone mobile OS market relative to Android and Apple iOS. However, it's thought that Microsoft still dominates in the embedded OS market, which is associated with kiosks, electronic signs and rugged handheld devices used for retail or industrial purposes.

Microsoft's Windows Embedded and Intel's Wind River Linux embedded OSes together constituted more than 60 percent of the overall embedded real-time OS (RTOS) market in 2011, according to Stephen Balacco, director of embedded software and tools at VDC Research, in a VDC Webcast. Balacco didn't break down that statistic, but he did say that Linux shipments in 2011 grew two times faster than RTOS shipments in 2010.

Windows Embedded Here To Stay
As Microsoft redesigns its flagship desktop OS to work on tablets and smartphones with the emerging Windows 8, Microsoft's Windows Embedded business isn't likely to disappear. Embedded devices have specific requirements on operating systems, according to Michael Cherry, research vice president for operating systems at Directions on Microsoft.

"Those [embedded] devices are determined by how the operating system responds to interrupts," Cherry explained, in a phone interview. "Typically, with a true embedded operating system, what you are talking about is a response time that you can measure and you can guarantee. Because, if you are doing some kind of automation, you need to know that that machine is ready to do the next thing when it needs to, whereas with Windows [desktop], it's still pretty fast in how it responds to interrupts, but you can't guarantee it. So that's going to, long term, be the distinguishing criteria between CE [Windows Embedded Compact Edition] and Windows [desktop]."

Cherry should know, having worked as a program manager on the Microsoft Windows Embedded team before joining Directions on Microsoft. Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions on Microsoft is an independent consultancy that advises clients on Microsoft technologies and licensing, and publishes research papers.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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