Microsoft signs up Sharp to license exFAT file system for Android smartphones

The software giant continues to sign up Android hardware makers to its licensing program

Microsoft said Wednesday it has signed an agreement allowing Japanese electronics maker Sharp to use its exFAT file system, as the U.S. software giant continues to add handset makers to its cadre of licensees.

Microsoft said the deal specifically included the right for Sharp to use exFAT (Extended File Allocation Table) technology in smartphones built on the Android operating system.

While Sharp is known worldwide for its TV and LCD panel business, it is also one of the leading mobile phone makers in Japan, where it mainly sells devices under its Aquos brand. Sharp was second in terms of Japanese smartphone shipments during the fiscal year that ended in March, behind only Apple, according to the MM Research Institute, a Japanese data vendor.

Microsoft has steadily added manufacturer support for exFAT, which it has included with Windows versions since a Vista update. The file system adds support for file sizes up to 256TB and greatly speeds up transfers for large files.

Manufacturers like Sharp must add the file system to make their phones compatible with Microsoft-driven PCs and other devices. Some analysts have calculated that Microsoft makes more from its patent licenses to Android makers than it does from its own mobile operating system efforts.

In January, Microsoft said that over 70 percent of Android devices sold in the U.S. include its technologies under license. That detail was included in its announcement of an agreement with LG for tablets, mobile phones and other devices running Android or the Chrome operating system.

The exFAT format is also increasingly supported in the growing number of "smart devices" that have their own storage offer features like Internet connectivity, including TVs and media storage devices boxes.

The software company has already signed up most other major Japanese mobile phone makers to use exFAT, including Panasonic, Sony, and Canon. Standards body the SD association has also adopted exFAT for its memory card specifications. Recent versions of Apple's OS X also support it.

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Jay Alabaster

IDG News Service
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