back to article Sharp cuts exFAT deal with Microsoft for Android mobes

Sharp has succumbed to the charms of a Microsoft licensing deal for the filing system exFAT. Microsoft will license its Extended File Allocation Table technology to Sharp in a deal covering the consumer electronic giant’s Android-based smartphones. Sharp joins Panasonic, SANYO, Sony and Canon in coughing up for exFAT from …


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  1. Nuke

    Still Using FAT ??!

    Why can't Sharp and these others use a different file system, not necessarily Ext4, but anything to get away from paying MS tax?

    If users want to exchange data with a Windows PC, Sharp could provide a driver for the alternative file system. Any gadget these days comes with a DVD full of crap that you are supposed to put in your Windows PC and let it install, why not such a file system driver with it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still Using FAT ??!

      Problem is that users would complain that they don't work on there Windows PC's. Could argue that by having a legit copy of windows you have already paid, but sadly that sanity does not exist. Has some interesting nuggets of info and one that I find very interesting is that Microsoft have not released a specification for ExFAT and the patents are as such that it is deemed impossible to reverse engineer and impliment without triggering large parts of those patents.

      If they split the files up into chunks of 80 bytes and called them cards then I'm sure IBM or somebody else would cry patent abuse. It's one case were compatability/interoptability is only viable if you pay for it somewere down the line.

      Now given that software liscences are reselable then I'm sure lots of us have in effect patent paid for liscences that we are not utilising. But it could be worse, could be the whole blank tape levy argument were just because you have the tools to copy music it is assumed you will and in that just becasue you have a computer it at least is not assumed you will run windows.

      Now if the entire inductry went and pushed EXT4 or some other open standards, then nothing stops Microsoft from adding it as a feature they support at no charge. But it is like any standards, albeit one that is not publicly available and is copyrighted. Just allowed enough rope to establish itself and then the rope is pulled everytime. Usualy patent approach it seems today, let the sales rock in and then hit them up for a backdated payment based upon terms you can control as you have them over a barrel.

    2. Lee Dowling

      Re: Still Using FAT ??!

      Or why do you need to know the disk format at all? It could be absolutely anything.

      If it comes to it, you're only going to send info to a computer by Bluetooth (filesystem-format-less) or USB data transfer (of which there are a myriad independent transfer formats, none of whom mention FAT or any filesystem). And, presumably, you've already paid the patents for those.

      At worst, just have a proprietary protocol and a userspace program (not even a driver, which needs to be signed by Microsoft thus providing them more money) which uses something like libusb to interpret the transfer and save the file as normal.

      At no point do you NEED to use any particular filesystem whatsoever. And, personally, I have used some Ext-based system just to avoid such problems even years before MS started to litigate their patents.

      But, certainly, exFAT isn't even the same as FAT32 which isn't the same as just plain FAT, and they could have used that instead too. It's just a failure, it seems, to properly choose a filesystem suitable for the job. Hell, I'd be ironic and use the MINIX filesystem internally, just to totally screw with everyone. All it has to do is keep track of some blob of binary data, it's not like it's rocket science. Hell, actually, I'd probably find some way to run SQLite on top of MINIX and use that to store files instead, just to really blow people's minds.

      1. Mark 65

        Re: Still Using FAT ??!

        @Lee: Not quite. I'm thinking that for large transfers it may have been setup this way so that users can stick the SD card directly into a reader or PC slot and read/write to the card. I think that the only realistic way to achieve this is to make an ext2/3/4 driver available with your CD containing sync software and other crap. They have litigated over Android phones in this case but this just as likely applies to compact cameras etc. I think that you do have to cater for direct access as such.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Most people aer too stupid to think of that and wil just cry that the product isn't compatible with windows, rather than the fact windows isn't compatible with the product.

  3. Alex Walsh

    File systems on Android really need sorting

    I've got a variety of Android devices knocking about the house- 4 phones and a tablet. None of them use any sort of extended file system for SD cards, which means I can put lots and lots of small files on my 64gig microSD card but nothing of any real size.

    Stupid bloody decision making at some level. What's the point in a Tegra 2 or 3 system that can do 720p and upwards if you can't actually store a 720p film on a storage card?

    1. Ammaross Danan

      Re: File systems on Android really need sorting

      My Android device can store 1080p film with no trouble. >1GB files even. Might want to check again.

      1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

        Re: File systems on Android really need sorting

        Files greater than 1GB are easy. Files greater than 2GB or 4GB are where it gets amusing. FAT32 can up to only 4GB.

        (Why? 32 bit file sizes; 32 bit signed = 2GB, 32 but unsigned = 4GB).

      2. Alex Walsh

        Re: File systems on Android really need sorting

        Try sticking an 8gig MKV on your SD card and let me know how that works for you :)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If they want to use a non-FOSS filesystem, they'll have to pay, the real question is why?

    Why can't Google produce a filesystem driver for Windows? Or why can't they produce a piece of code which uploads files/data to the phone as a black box device with a driver and ext2/3/4, rather than treating it as a mass storage device using exFAT?

    These are not difficult hurdles, it's almost as if Google want to appear to be hard done by and are going for some sort of sympathy vote.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Pah...

      Cant see why someone doesn't cobble together a simple NFS client for windows that all these people can use.

      I'd do it but I don't have Windows let alone the latest and gratest to test on.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pah...

        There is a simple NFS client, it's by MS and it's free. If you don't like that one, I seem to recall that cygwin has one, PuTTY has scp, there are loads of options, it's just that Google don't seem interested. Or maybe they just want all that free publicity every time someone pays MS for their technology which is being used in Android (see every article on The Reg about this subject.)

        1. RICHTO

          Re: Pah...

          And of what relevance is that to a conversation about file systems?

    2. Doug 3

      Re: Pah...

      this is probably why you don't see Windows with device located drivers like what Sun Sparc systems had in the 1990s. There was talk of Java having this functionality via something called Jini but we all know how violently Microsoft opposed and fought off Java.

      The solution really is an OS which can ask the device for its driver, get the driver in a language which is platform neutral( Forth, Java, Python, etc ) and provide the subsystem for the running of the driver in the OS. It's not going to happen with Microsoft around that's for sure.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pah...

      What is this "Windows" that you appear to be running on your PCs?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pah...

        You obviously don't know much about technology, it's the most installed OS in the world. Why are you here?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You didn't list Samsung as a lIcensee of ExFAT. The Galaxy S3 is at the moment the only Android phone on the market with support for this 'filing system'.

  6. Dan 55 Silver badge


    Whenever any exFAT patent story comes up I'm obliged to post that any fairly modern OS (WinXP/MacOS X/Linux) can read and write UDF and anyone with an older OS could download the drivers from the SD Card Association website or the card manufacturer could perhaps even pre-load the card with an installer in a small FAT partition which uses 8.3 filenames.

    But because the SD Card Association didn't figure this one out years ago, everyone's got to queue up to pay up at the Microsoft till for the privilege of using FAT with long filenames or exFAT. The likes of SanDisk would rather push some zany media manager software instead.

  7. jonfr

    Don't use FAT16/32

    Companies should be smart and stop using FAT16/32 on devices. Since the patient is owned by Microsoft.

    1. Bitbeisser

      Re: Don't use FAT16/32

      FAT16/32 are not covered by any patent, it's "exFAT"

      And in reply to another post, ExFAT allows for files far larger than 4GB (up to 16ExaByte)

  8. Christian Berger

    Actually quite foolish

    I mean who seriously believes exFAT will have any future?

    The 2 possible outcomes will be companies not supporting exFAT on SDXC cards, or simply dropping support for SD-cards at all. By now micro controllers in cameras and mobile phones are powerful enough to simply act as an USB host. It would probably only takes weeks for an USB form factor to emerge which would simply disappear inside the device.

  9. Christian Berger

    Some misconceptions

    First of all the reason for exFAT is that it's mandatory for SDXC, there's no other justification for it since it doesn't even work on all common Windows versions.

    Second you can use FAT for files a lot larger than 4 Gigabytes. There are backwards compatible extensions for that, and depending on how your operating system was written, it may not even notice that it is reading past the 4 Gigabyte mark.

  10. vic 4


    Forgive me if I'm wrong, but just pluging your phone into a computer does not give direct access to the files sytem. Why would it matter what FS was physically in use, as long as the attached device implements the usb mass storage protocol or (as is the current trend) the media transfer protocol then the accessing operating system doesn't need a ext3 or whatever driver.

    Surely the only reason for exFAT or one of the other MS-FAT FS is for taking a memory card out of the phone and accessing it directly. How many average consumers do that?

    1. Christian Berger

      Re: exFAT

      Actually in very many cases, you do get block access to it. There may be exceptions, but the devices I've seen do it like that. It's simply the cheapest way of doing so.

      1. vic 4

        Re: exFAT

        Fair enough, but does this work out cheaper when you have to pay a % per device rather than a one off development cost? Latest phones Ive had pass over my desk all use MTP, can't just mount them.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Stupid on multiple levels

    One, why the hell did whoever was in the organization that set the SD card standards let a proprietary Microsoft format be REQUIRED unless they agreed to subject those patents to FRAND licensing?

    Two, why the hell does every Android vendor seem to think an SD card slot is necessary? Either ship the damn phone with sufficient flash from the get go so no expansion is needed, or use another standard for memory expansion. There are how many many dozen small form factor memory card standards out there? Pick one that doesn't require a Microsoft filesystem and use that. Since hardly anyone is taking these SD cards out of their phone anyway, you can use ext3 or whatever the hell you won't without regard for whether a PC can read it. A PC can easily read it if it has to, just by installing a driver.

    Talk about self-inflicted wounds. And the worst thing is that they are still doing it. Apple sues Samsung and they design a Tab 10.1N to get around the issue. Apple sues HTC and they change the way their mail app works to get around the issue. Microsoft goes after every single Android vendor out there and they just pay up and keep shipping product with the SD card slot a year or two later? How fucking stupid are these guys????

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stupid on multiple levels

      FRAND does not mean free.

  12. poohbear

    Android manufacturers are trying....

    Some recent devices have shipped without the ability to take SD cards (HTC One X, IIRC, etc.). Some people complained about this (probably because HTC skimped on the installed memory), but I think this trend, together with the recent change in Android to STOP treating the phone as a USB device but as a camera instead, is part of Google's plan to move manufacturers away from the SD slot, and then the problem should go away. But they'll need to bundle something like AirDroid with the phones to allow easy transfers (and hope people have wifi on their network). My mother would be stumped (but then, she wouldn't know what an SD card is either ...)

  13. vagabondo

    exFAT Patent?

    I do not understand how it is possible to get a patent without publishing the specification. Surely the only rationale for patents is that the inventor gets a limited monopoly in return for publishing the specification?

    Or is this like the OOXML "standard" -- the published specification is to do it like we do it in our unpublished secret method?

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