Microsoft said Wednesday that it has reached an agreement that will give HTC the rights to use its technology in phones using Google's Android software. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Microsoft called the deal "an example of how industry leaders can reach commercial arrangements that address intellectual property." Although Microsoft didn't mention Apple directly, this pact comes a month after Apple sued HTC and accused the company of violating patents related to the iPhone.
HTC, which has said it will defend itself against Apple's claims, is a key partner for Google in its expansion into mobile services, a move that has ignited a more direct competition with Apple.
Apple did not return messages seeking comment.
Microsoft's decision reflects the complex alliances at play in a fierce battle among technology companies to control the future of how consumers interact with online services on a range of computers and mobile devices.
Microsoft and Apple are longtime rivals. Microsoft also competes with Google in online search and in cell phone software. But Microsoft and HTC have long-standing relationships as well. Needham & Co. analyst Charles Wolf expects HTC to release a phone running the next version of Microsoft's Windows software for mobile phones this year.