Microsoft and Nokia Get Approval From China

Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) acquisition of Nokia’s (NYSE:NOK) handset unit hasn’t quite finished according to schedule — the companies originally estimated that it would be complete by the end of the first quarter — but it is moving forward. The companies received approval in China on Tuesday, according to an announcement from Nokia, and they expect the acquisition to close completely by the end of the month.

“Nokia and Microsoft have now received regulatory approvals from the People’s Republic of China, the European Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice and numerous other jurisdictions. Nokia and Microsoft continue to expect the transaction to close during April 2014, as communicated in our press release from March 24, 2014,” Nokia said. “The regulatory approval process has involved a thorough review of Nokia’s patent licensing practices by several competition authorities around the world. During that process, no authority has challenged Nokia’s compliance with its FRAND undertakings related to standard-essential patents (licensing on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms) or requested that Nokia make changes to its licensing program or royalty terms.”

A report from TechCrunch said that a Microsoft representative declined to say which markets are still pending approval for the acquisition, although the website pointed out that Nokia’s tax dispute in India could hold up proceedings there.

It does appear that the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) had some concerns about Microsoft and Nokia’s FRAND patents. In a blog post on the issue, Microsoft Vice President of Litigation and Antitrust David Howard said that the regulator’s “decision effectively adopts Microsoft’s current patent licensing practices,” but it seems as though the issue of patent licensing could be subject to change in the future.

“It has never been our intent to change our practices after we acquire the Nokia business, so while we disagreed with the premise that our incentives might change in the future, we were happy to discuss commitments on this basis,” Howard said of the agreements. The full statement can be read here.

Microsoft announced the $7.2 billion purchase of Nokia’s smartphone unit as a way to gain total control of the Windows Phone platform, with the hopes of better competing against industry dominators Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung (SSNLF.PK). Nokia makes the Lumia line of smartphones that run on Windows OS.

While Microsoft has fallen behind in mobile, new CEO Satya Nadella is dedicating the company’s efforts to catching up in the arena by jumping on the next big mobile technologies. One area in particular in which Microsoft is looking to challenge Apple is voice recognition and artificial intelligence. The company has announced Cortana for Windows Phone, its competitor to Apple’s digital personal assistant, Siri, and is pushing an AI initiative called “invisible user interface.”

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is investing in the creation of technology that could intuit a user’s needs without any effort from the user. “User interface started with the command prompt, moved to graphics, then touch, and then gestures,” Microsoft research and development head Yoram Yaakobi said to the Journal. “It’s now moving to invisible UI, where there is nothing to operate. The tech around you understands you and what you want to do. … We’re putting this at the forefront of our efforts.”

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