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04.21.07

Imaginary Software Patents as the Modern Equivalent of Vapourware

Posted in Antitrust, Deception, Europe, FUD, Microsoft, Novell, Patent Covenant, Patents, SCO at 5:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Back in its early days, Microsoft identified a very powerful marketing tool. It realised that vapourware — however controversial the method may seem — was the means of “freezing the market”, based on false facts which prospective customers rely on. An old memo from Comes vs. Microsoft [PDF] exposes us an example of this (note: emphasis is mine). Right from the horse’s month:

From nathanm Mon Oct 01 11:42:05 1990
To: billg; bradsi;
Subject: SPARC, MIPS & Compaq
Date: Tue Oct 02, 22:57:14 1990

[...]

The purpose of announcing early like this is to freeze the market at the OEM and ISV level. In this respect it is JUST like the original Windows announcement…

One might worry that this will help Sun because we will just have vaporware, that people will stop buying 486 machines, that we will have endorsed RISC but not delivered… So, Scott, do you really think you can fight that avalanche?

When Munich prepared for its migration to GNU/Linux, another mutation of this so-called ‘vapourware’ announcement emerged. The SCO Group maintained that Linux code — while no specific fragments could not be identified — was stolen from UNIX. Based on these bogus allegations, some people found themselves routed into alternative directions.

Finally, this brings us to Novell and Microsoft. The two companies swap ‘protection money’ and exchange patents that cannot even be listed. They never intend to put them out in the open. Like imaginary innovations (or vapourware), this creates a form of uncertainty. It is, after all, just ‘vapour’ being exchanged, yet everyone must weigh this unknown factor.

Here are several recent examples of vapourware in the context of software:

The Evolution of FUD Ends in Patents

Posted in FUD, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 1:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Following the almost-forgotten “Show Us The Code” open letter, Glyn Moody of Linux Journal offers a good insight into the way Microsoft’s anti-Linux FUD has evolved over the years.

As I’ve noted before, I am something of a connoisseur of Microsoft’s FUD against open source, in part because I believe each successive FUD-flavour of the month gives important hints about the evolution of the thinking and strategy within the company. The latest development in this area, which revolves around patents, is no exception – not least because I think people are drawing the wrong conclusions from it.

[...]

Of course, this is precisely the SCO approach, which seems finally to be in its death-throes. And just as for SCO’s initially troubling assault three years ago, it is important now for the open source community to stick with the same simple, unwavering message in the face of Microsoft’s attempt to revive this technique: that there are no problems with patents until Microsoft can prove – not insinuate – otherwise. In other words, show us the code – or shut up.

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