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05.14.07

Blog Reactions to Microsoft’s Threats (Updated)

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 11:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A lot is being said in virtually every Open Source blog and publication. Here are a couple of reactions which stand out from the crowd.

It’s Time for Microsoft to Put Up or Shut Up

I take offense at the notion that anyone in the Open Source world is willfully violating a Microsoft patent, particularly since Microsoft refuses to disclose any potential violations:

“Gutierrez refuses to identify specific patents or explain how they’re being infringed, lest FOSS advocates start filing challenges to them.”

Gutierrez and Microsoft aren’t interested in intellectual property rights. They’re not interested in allowing the Open Source world to defend itself. They’re not interested in a fair fight. Like a bully, they refuse to face the Open Source world in a fair fight, instead hinting at willful infringement and making backhanded threats. Why? Like any bully they fear that when faced with a fair fight in the light of day they will be revealed for the bully they are. Like any bully they fear that which they threaten.

Why Linux Will Turn Microsoft’s Ballmer Into A Boy Named Sue

Microsoft is between a rock and a hard place. Google is eating its lunch on the Internet, and big PC vendors like Dell are warming up to Linux. What to do? Sue, Sue, Sue.

Looking at a future where the cost of all software is zero, the software giant might evolve into an entity that cannot compete. Subscription-based and ad-supported services will give it the run for a breath of fresh air. Only last week, Bill Gates stressed that advertising should become the company’s top priority, but they are virtually nowhere to be seen.

Microsoft could one day become an army of lawyers with a patent portfolio. Early signs indicate that it is willing to become a software patent troll. Public image is truly not a top priority and alienation of existing customers seems acceptable, too.

Addendum: here are a few more quotes which I could not help appending.

The only thing we have to fear is FUD itself.

       Source

I’ll grant any non-IT professional the right to misunderstand this — but any programmer, developer or software architect claiming software patents are a good idea just flips the bozo bit for me.

If your name is on a software patent, you should feel ashamed.

       Source

So for now, the company’s strategy appears to hedge on FUD, and a smattering of well-publicized reminders of the big patent stick it can use to club those who resist its carrots.

       Source

Selected Quotes: Why Software Patents Must Not Exist

Posted in Patents, Quote at 10:54 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Well, every large program infringes lots of patents.
Microsoft has lots of patents. Most large programs, I would expect, infringe
some Microsoft patents. This just goes to show why software patents
shouldn’t exist.

             — Richard Stallman, in a very recent interview

The number [of patents] we found, to anyone familiar with this issue, is so average as to be boring; almost any piece of software potentially infringes at least that many patents. The point of the study was actually to eliminate the FUD about Linux’s alleged legal problems by attaching a quantifiable measure versus the speculation.

             —Dan Ravicher, an attorney and
                executive director of PUBPAT (the Public
                Patent Foundation), in a this new article

Novell Put Its Own Customers at Risk

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, Patents at 10:28 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

So there I was having a quick glance at Novell-tailored RSS feeds. One particular headline caught my attention. It reads “Rich Media Network Insight24 Showcases Novell’s ‘Linux Security and Assurance’ podcast”.

Hmmm… somewhat comical for somebody to deliver ‘Novell’s Linux Security and Assurance’ if interpreted in the wrong context, no? Novell has opened the floodgates to threats when it offered admission that Linux was ‘unclean’. To its credit, Novell has some decent businessmen. The company received over $0.3 billion for this admission. Essentially, it swallowed the bait and it didn’t taste nice. Based on some financial transactions, we suspect that its executives received some good ol’ payola. Maybe it was a by-product and maybe we are just over-speculative.

At some stage, Novell has said that its deal with Microsoft does not guarantee that Microsoft won’t sue Novell customers. Interestingly enough, putting one’s own customer in jeopardy is exactly what we find in Microsoft. Suing one’s own customer is a dilemma and endless debate that Microsoft itself is now perplexed by. Just published in The Register:

With this unbelievable, weak reply, Ballmer chose to threaten many of Microsoft’s largest customers with the possibility of legal action, if they’ve picked up Linux, as most of Microsoft’s largest customers have. In so doing, the CEO replaced Gates’s straight-forward feistiness of yesteryear with a vacuous grimace delivered via the vehicle of a business publication.

Patent Laws Face Some New Key Challanges

Posted in America, Europe, Intellectual Monopoly, Patents at 9:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

In America, Not All Hope is Lost

According to the Inquirer, a subcommittee will decide reduce legal wrangles associated with patents. What exactly does the problem involve? According to the article:

The chief problem is that many damages awards bear little relation to the actual worth of the patent compared to all of the other elements which make up the total end product.

The danger is that if the Congressional subcommittee doesn’t make a decision soon, the potential law will go onto the backburner after July 4th elections.

Let’s ask ourselves, what is the worth of ‘damages’ incurred by using sudo? I swear I have seen patents which involve threaded viewing of messages in an E-mail client and even *gasp* the linked list. USPTO has gone completely out of hand.

We Support the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (EU)

For those who do not know, FFII is very much alive and its activity is very important at this stage of saber rattling against Free software. Please show your support to them in any way possible. From their Web site:

The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to establishing a free market in information technology, by the removal of barriers to competition. The FFII was largely responsible for the rejection of the EU software patent directive in July 2005, working closely with the European Parliament and many partners from industry and civil society. CNET awarded the FFII the Outstanding contribution to software development award for this work, which was the result of years of research, policy, and action. Today we continue to defend your right to a free and competitive software market by working towards sane patent systems and open standards.

Advocate sanity. Base judgment on logic, not greed.

Microsoft Says It Will Not Sue GNU/Linux Users, But There’s a Snag (Updated)

Posted in FUD, GNU/Linux, Intellectual Monopoly, Interoperability, Law, Microsoft, Novell, Patents at 8:26 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

According to the latest developments, Microsoft’s threats are an attempt to strike more Novell-type deals, not prepare for any lawsuits.

…Microsoft said it wants to create more arrangements that mirror the company’s deal with Linux distributor Novell.

Back when we ran a different poll on this site, the large majority (roughly 80-90%, among hundreds) said that other distributors should not engage with Microsoft in a Novell-like deal.

SJVN weighs in on the matter. He does not really buy Microsoft’s argument, according to his latest analysis (do not mind a few inaccuracies, which I pointed out to him).

While Microsoft professes a preference to license rather than litigate, its record indicates otherwise. On Feb. 22, 2007, a jury awarded a $1.52 billion patent judgment in favor of Alcatel-Lucent against Microsoft over the Redmond, Wash., company’s use of MP3 codices. This was the largest patent award in history. In the Eolas case, Microsoft was also found guilty in a $521 million patent infringement ruling over how Internet Explorer handled embedded content.

So, might we expect Microsoft to be putting on a poker face?

Update: it is worth adding SJVN’s argument that this move from Microsoft is just a deja vu, going back to 2004.

With that comment, Microsoft declared war against Linux and open source yesterday…Oh wait. My mistake, Ballmer made that attack in November 2004 .

Novell is not the next SCO, Microsoft is.

Posted in IBM, Intellectual Monopoly, Law, Microsoft, Novell, Patents, SCO at 7:34 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

On several occasions we argued or cited Web sites, people, and analyses which named Novell “the next SCO”. While the effect of the Novell/Microsoft relationship resembles what could develop into SCO 2.0, it is becoming clear that Microsoft, not Novell, will take the lead. Novell might just be the alibi, the precedence, maybe even the backer. To spearhead the attack on Free software, one must have the necessary resources and the interest, which is tightly related to grip on a proprietary ecosystem.

So, equipped with a comparatively limited patent portfolio (recall OIN), a quickly-stagnating-but-still-profitable business, and Novell’s energy to spare (think Trojan horse for OOXML, Mono, Silverlight, Samba, etc.), Microsoft is heading for the legal battle. Is it the next SCO? Some people certainly believe this and they respond accordingly. Here are a couple of reactions.

The first comes from Dana.

But time is not on Microsoft’s side, and the cost of its intransigence keeps rising. Its ballyhooed Silverlight technology is going to bomb like Bob because many developers will simply refuse to deal with a Microsoft product, due to its stance on patents and Linux. Microsoft is fast becoming the new SCO.

Here is an interesting reaction from one who has been loyal to Microsoft’s way, until now.

You know all those nice things I said about the Microsoft Development environment a couple of weeks ago? Well, I still stand by them as a realistic opinion of the quality of the platform for developers. However, today’s news brings the major reason you should run away from depending on Microsoft technology like it had a case of Ebola…

[...]

At the end, there’s only one thing left to say. For shame Microsoft, for shame. You’ve twisted competition into a thuggish debacle that ranks right up there with the worst of the great robber barons. How ironic that Bill Gates is trying to reinvent himself as the great philanthropist. Andrew Carnegie took much the same route late in his life, as if it could wash away his sins. We can only hope that in a few years, Steve Ballmer will look as much a fool as Daryl McBride does today.

Some go as far as calling Microsoft “anti-capitalist”, for it is unable to accept competition that is based on a better and/or cheaper product. It alters the rules of the game. It no longer finds itself in a free market. Novell chose to be absorbed by a market and fair competition abuser rather than confront it. For this, Novell might only come to witness its own slow demise. Whether it behaves in an SCO-like fashion or not, its final destination could be the same, just by sitting obediently at the sidelines.

Say No to Novell

How’s That GPLv3 Coming Along?

Posted in FUD, GPL, Interview, Patents at 6:12 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Linux.com (OSTG) has just published a short interview with Eben Moglen. It came just shortly after Microsoft had fired its warning shot.

We [Eben and reporter] discussed his personal history with Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel; the battle with Microsoft over its patent agreement with Novell, and what he would like for his students, programmers, and even reporters on the fringes of media corporations to learn about how to change the world.

About Novell, Eben says: “If I had predicted in the first week of the Microsoft-Novell deal that come this spring Microsoft would be throwing SLES coupons out of airplanes, nobody would have believed me. But it is perfectly clear why they are doing it, and it is perfectly clear that they made a plan to do it at the instant they saw what was going to happen in GPLv3, and the reason they saw what was going to happen in GPLv3 was because I told them.

Allison Randal has just made a gentle request for better GPLv3 clarity, but it has become apparent that the GPLv3 is approaching finalisation, it is gaining more acceptance from Linux kernel developers, and surveys reveal optimism. It’s truly a shame that Eben will step down once it’s all done. At least proper protection will be in place. With that in mind, OIN’s protection may never even be needed. All that will remain from Microsoft’s warning short is fresher FUD.

Could it [Microsoft's threat] have something to do with taking a big stick and little carrot approach to lucrative commercial deals, such as we have seen recently with the Novell ‘we won’t sue you if you jump into bed with us’ pact? Or perhaps it is more a case of running scared from the big stick that the Open Invention Network (OIN), with members such as IBM, Philips and Sony at the helm, has been carving which might just be long enough to poke Microsoft in the eye and heavy enough to do some serious damage in the patent litigation department?

Attack on Linux and FOSS Reveals Microsoft’s Weakness, Fragility

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Vista, Windows at 4:33 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft. Oh, thy mighty Microsoft! How giants have fallen. An InfoWorld article hits the nail right on the head and claims that, if anything, Microsoft’s latest patent claims hint at internal issues.

Microsoft Corp.’s aim to seek patent royalties from open-source distributors and users may be an attempt to use legal threats to deflect attention from larger questions surrounding its business, including lack of interest in new versions of core products and lackluster profit from new wares.

We would like to present several articles that expose the truth behind public relations. If you are unfamiliar with these, you are urged to read on.

Microsoft’s Record Quarter: Shareholders Paid for Most of the Upside Surprise

“Said another way, Microsoft achieved record breaking earnings during the Vista launch quarter by taking money out of its assets, not through amazing sales of Vista and Office.”

Now taking money of its savings account isn’t necessarily a big deal… However, as a point in contrast, Apple Inc. has been launching a lot of products over the last nine months and has added almost $2 billion to its balance sheet and assets in the same period that Microsoft’s assets dropped $6 billion.

Microsoft Refuses to Reveal Current Vista Sales

Microsoft on Thursday reported a 65 percent jump in third quarter profits, buoyed by sales of its latest operating system, Vista. Exactly how many Microsoft has sold, however, is still a mystery.

[...]

Liddell declined to provide exact numbers on how many units of Vista the company had sold.

Uh-Oh, Vista! PC Sales Levels Are Normal

“Vista hasn’t been a catalyst for PC sales,” he said. “Looking at the weekly data, there really isn’t anything happening with sales that has anything to do with Vista.”

Also see this note on channel stuffing.

“This is a relic of old-line consumer products companies like Philip Morris, or fraudsters like Miniscribe who literally shipped bricks in lieu of disk drives to hit sales targets.

[...]

Channel stuffing is the business practice where a company or a sales force within a company inflates its sales figures by forcing more products through a distribution channel than the channel is capable of selling to the world at large.

[...]

We have a game we play around the office here with Microsoft press releases. The game is, “Find the words that make the headline true.” It’s not always easy.

[...]

Sony, like Microsoft, announces units shipped, not actually sold. This allows both companies to advertise sales numbers based on how many units they can force retailers to accept, not on how many units customers actually buy; both have considerable market power to push excess unsold inventory into the channel.”

Microsoft cuts Windows virtualization features

The company is changing three key features of the hypervisor technology to try to stick to its schedule of releasing the technology within 180 days of completing its Windows Server “Longhorn” operating system, due to be finalized before the end of the year.

More than half of Microsoft Vista needs re-writing

“Up to 60% of the code in the new consumer version of Microsoft new Vista operating system is set to be rewritten…”

Vista: end of a dream

In the long years since XP was launched, Apple have come out with five major upgrades to OS X, upgrades which (dare I say it?) install with about as much effort as it takes to brush your teeth in the morning. No nightmare calls to tech-support, no sudden hardware incompatibilities, no hassle. Why hasn’t Microsoft kept up? Unmaintainable

Right now, Microsoft has nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide. After all the hype surrounding Vista, the Emperor has finally been revealed in all his naked glory. Some folks have been predicting the demise of Microsoft. I wouldn’t go that far, but I am wondering how we’re ever going to take Microsoft seriously again?

Microsoft admits Vista screwed – report

Vista SP1 is code named “Fiji”, presumably after a pretty looking island which is paralysed by coups.

In a statement regarding the service pack Microsoft admits that Vista has “high impact” problems.

MS Insider: The Office Crew Isn’t Smart Enough to Supplant Real Windows Developers

“With Alchin retiring, MarkL and MarkZ, two of the most talented architects in MS already having left, the picture gets really ugly for the Windows division,” my friend claimed, and the BV’s core team members, Ian McDonald, Jack Mayo, Todd Wanke, Clyde Rodriguez and others are starting to connect the dots.

[...]

He concluded ominously. “A trainwreck of biblical proportions looms. Pick a good seat on the sidelines, trainwrecks this large take awhile to complete. Vista may be the last MS OS for some time to come, especially if Cutler decides to play hardball.”

Software Notebook: Microsoft’s cash pile isn’t what it used to be

But Microsoft has taken a series of steps to reduce its cash balance. Specifically, by Microsoft’s count, the company has paid out nearly $100 billion through dividends and repurchasing its own stock in the past five years.

Loot: Redmond, We Have a Problem, Or, What’s Wrong With the Xbox 360

At this point, Former becomes impassioned. That’s not fair, he says; we always saw this as a long-term venture. To which we reply that we were talking about the original Xbox, and while other divisions of the company throw off more profits in a single quarter than the entire $5 billion or so lost in the home and entertainment division to date, the fact remains that, as we take-our-word-for-it predicted, the Xbox group has been spectacularly unprofitable for Microsoft. Hence, our heretofore unpublished Vietnam analogy. The rest of the night is a blur, but we digress.

How Much is Too Much?

Microsoft says it will stick with Xbox. But with years of heavy losses behind it, the pressure’s on for the gaming division to make good

Microsoft stoic despite massive losses

If you were to judge by the PR rhetoric, you’d think the 360 was an unstoppable commercial juggernaut. As usual though, PR lies.

Microsoft Hides Its Mobile and Business Apps Divisions

The company is folding its two worst-performing divisions — Microsoft Business Solutions (its business applications unit) and its Mobile and Embedded units — into the Microsoft Business Division and Microsoft Home and Entertainment units, respectively.

A Dozen Stocks For ’07

Millen also thinks $36 billion in planned share buybacks will help the stock.

Microsoft counts on Vista to recharge stagnant stock

There was a time in the 1990s when shares of Microsoft stock seemed to double every couple of years. 1996: college for the kids. 1998: a place on Whidbey. 1999: early retirement.

Times have changed.

Commentary: Microsoft needs more than just buybacks to lift its shares

Microsoft shares, which have been dormant for the last few years, have been looking up over the last couple months. The Dow industrials component has gained about 20% since hitting a 4-year low of $21.46 o June 13.

To help move things along, Microsoft not only launched a $40 billion stock repurchase program that lasts through 2011, the company also said its previously announced 4-year, $30 billion stock buyback program was completed in just 2 years.

We hope that citations speak for themselves. Microsoft’s own problems led it to an attacking strategy. It’s not a rational move, but an emotional one perhaps.

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