RealTime IT News

Microsoft Opens Hardware Licensing

Microsoft is expanding its intellectual property licensing initiatives beyond its software business to its hardware business.

Though Microsoft is best known as a software company, it also researches and develops various hardware technologies, typically related to mice and keyboards.

Three different Microsoft hardware technologies are now being made available to interested third parties for licensing.

Microsoft's "Tilt Wheel" technology enables keyboard and/or mice users to more easily maneuver their devices side to side and up and down. The Magnifier technology provides zoom in/out functionality. And U2 is an auto sensing USB and PS2 technology that enables easier device connection.

David Kaefer, director of business development in Microsoft's IP licensing group, explained that, to date, Microsoft has done a little bit of hardware licensing but mostly in the cross licensing area as opposed to licensing its own IP.

"This is really the first example of an attempt to put predictable programatized offerings out there with features that people are willing to pay price premiums for," Kaefer told internetnews.com.

End users won't even necessarily know that U2, Magnifier or Tilt are Microsoft licensed entities. Kaefer explained that the hardware IP licensing initiative does not include a trademark licensing component. As such, Microsoft branding is not being passed on.

Both Microsoft and third-party hardware vendors are expected to benefit from the new licensing initiative.

Kaefer expects that licensees can command a $10 to $15 premium on mice that include the newly opened Microsoft hardware IP. He explained that the Microsoft licensing cost would run between 30 and 35 cents a unit.

"When you look at what's left for the partner it becomes a very interesting opportunity for them," Kaefer said.

One particularly well-known Microsoft Hardware technology is not being opened to licensing at this time: Microsoft's Ergonomic keyboards.

Kaefer noted that Microsoft doesn't have any plans at this time about licensing the keyboard technology, "but we encourage people to approach us with ideas."