As much as many of us hate politics, it is impossible to escape and ignore the impact corporations have on legislation. On the verge and at risk of approaching touchy subjects, it’s worth clarifying that the Administration is partly responsible for what we have come to know as “patent trolling” and taxation of Free software (through the legitimacy of software patents).
Going against Linux vendors — or any corporation for that matter — is practically difficult. It’s mentally hard to tolerate the very systematic attacks on me across the Web. These don’t help or motivate. Speaking for myself, I was an avid SUSE user and even occasional contributer both at home and at work (no dual/multi-booting, either) just before the Novell deal. So, I never ever had any vendetta against Novell. Au contraire — I was a fan.
“Increasing filtering on the Web might permit Microsoft to intercept ‘illegitimate’ downloads of GNU/Linux.”Over time, it became more clear that if we don’t start speaking with our wallets, then this racketeering scheme we’re seeing will expand until we cannot escape the ‘tax’. Increasing filtering on the Web might permit Microsoft to intercept ‘illegitimate’ downloads of GNU/Linux. One step at a time. Never say never. That’s the worst-case scenario anyway.
I happen to be a developer. My co-editor, Shane, is a distromaster and maintainer. As developers, it is rather obvious that we have to fight hard to tell Microsoft that it’s our code. We wrote it. Microsoft contributed nothing but slurs to it, so why should it be paid for code we wrote for no profit? This underpins the severity of the issue at hand.
If we can still fight against software patents, we should. The USPTO, along those who legislate for it, are simply too corrupted by the money already. There are attempts to rewrite the law in such as way so that neo-guilds will thrive as they did back in the 19th century. Some call it “oligarchy” or a state of monopolies (which isn’t quite the same thing as globalisation).
By changing laws, Free software, Creative Commons-licensed material and political blogs can be verboten, suffocated to death or marginalised until they remain a distant and scarcely-reachable niche. Why else would Lawrence Lessig so abruptly quit his existing efforts and decide to fight corruption instead? He claims this to be at the heart of copyrights madness that assassinates our culture. He intends to spends the next 10 years studying and combating this disease.
The copyrights battle parallels that of Free software. Software development is about creating better tools. The financial side of the business must not hinder further development of better products. But that’s just what you get with software patents. As yesterday’s update about Acacia demonstrates, an entire industry of programmers is nowadays giving room to lawyers who wish to share the profit.
Ware and Financial Systems Innovation, LLC (a subsidiary of Acacia, formerly a subsidiary of TechSearch, the company now known as Global Patent Holdings) have filed 10 patent litigations in the last four years, against 144 defendants. Friedman, Suder & Cooke is representing Ware and Acacia in all of the litigation, most of which are pending either in the Northern District of Georgia or Northern District of Texas. The big filing was one last June against 106 defendants, which I reported on here. While 3 of Ware’s cases were settled, the rest were stayed pending the first reexamination. There are motions in each of those cases to lift the stay. Some are being granted, but in other cases, more trouble brews.
It remains important to consider factors that go beyond the deals which we criticise relentlessly. Everyone is fighting to make the system more favourable in one direction or another and this is a game where money makes the rules. In other words, the wealthy can ensure that laws and amendment are constantly made which maintain and increase the same wealth balance. Linux and open standards are usually fought against not by superior products and formats, but through backroom deals and lobbying of politicians. As such, the slightly political slant will continue to remain relevant. It won’t be overlooked. █
“Gates met Noorda briefly in San Francisco to discuss the merger […] before the merger could go forward, he said Novell had to drop its plans to buy Digital Research. […] when Noorda raised the possibility that the Justice Department might try to block a merger between the first and third biggest software companies on the planet, Gates responded, “Don’t worry, we know how to handle the federal government.” […] Gates denied every saying such a thing”
With great “wins” like this, I always wondered why the Microsofties did not trumpet these case studies of wonderful “industry acceptance” of MSOOXML any louder? Its a gold-mine to announce that independent system vendors have wholly adopted their spanking new specification? This is further proof that ISO should ratify MSOOXML immediately with this worldwide support.
So is it “Well done, Microsoft Malaysia?” or is a timebomb just waiting to explode ala Sweden?
For those who do not remember or know, Microsoft got caught bribing its partners in Sweden in order to win support for OOXML. The vote from Sweden was consequently invalided. Here is a quick reminder in the form of an article from ComputerWorld.
Microsoft Corp. admitted Wednesday that an employee at its Swedish subsidiary offered monetary compensation to partners for voting in favor of the Office Open XML document format’s approval as an ISO standard.
“In general, Microsoft uses its money in a variety of ways in order to promote OOXML.”There has been a lot more coverage of this incident. It’s just the tip of the iceberg and it represents a widespread phenomenon, whose existence requires some ‘smoking guns’ leaks such as the above. In general, Microsoft uses its money in a variety of ways in order to promote OOXML. It’s all about money. Whether it’s illegal is a separate matter and it probably depends which part of the world you live in.
As time goes by, Microsoft will need to cope with the fact that office suites are becoming a commodity. Documents, spreadsheets, presentations and so forth will be more portable and tools for managing them will be based on support subscriptions or advertising as means for profit. Microsoft is still experimenting with the pay-as-you-go or pay-per-documented idea in particular parts of the world as it clings on to a dying business model. The following new article talks about some more barriers and disruptive trends.
The way we work is undergoing the biggest shift since Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Office launched in 1989–and it’s poised to make editing documents on your desktop as quaint as correcting mistakes with Liquid Paper. Collaborative work applications, collectively known as “office 2.0,” now let you work remotely with other people in whole new ways.
Factor in the marketing muscle of these two über-brands and suddenly it’s easy to imagine a Gates-less Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) losing its monopoly in office computing.
It is worth emphasising that only two divisions at Microsoft account for the vast majority of its revenue. Discussing the failure of other divisions is beyond the scope of this Web site, but let it be clear that without the Office monopoly, Microsoft will be in serious trouble. The company is not as healthy as it wishes you to believe (we’ll challenge criticism of this assertion shall that be required). █
There have been two key additions to this Web site today. The first is a static page that names companies which need to be avoided, along with the reasons. The second is a much more comprehensive section that provides a glimpse at the Comes vs. Microsoft proceedings. Novell is included among the exhibits which reveal anti-competitive activity, including technical sabotage and exclusionary contracts. Here is the index:
Later today, Microsoft will make a virtualisation-related announcement. It seems likely that our assessment was correct [1, 2, 3]. Citrix grabbing XenSource was potentially a maneuver that simply advanced Windows without getting Microsoft in too much trouble with the FTC and the GPL. Moreover, it seems possible that Microsoft will acquire Citrix some day, as the following revealing article from Forbes suggests (published just moments ago).
Microsoft announced that it competed acquisituion of Calista Technologies, a San Jose, Calif.-based start-up that makes computer graphics for virtualized computers, and an expanded partnership with Citrix Systems, a VMware competitor based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Microsoft and Citrix will jointly market services that “virtualize” computers, operating systems and applications.
Microsoft’s shot across the bow at VMware is inevitable as companies throughout industry shift to Web-based services. “Microsoft needs to get something into the market quickly,” says Roger Kay, president of technology research firm Endpoint Technologies Associate. “Windows Office has 10 years to burn, but it will become less relevant.”
A Microsoft-Citrix combination could present formidable competition to VMware, he suggests. Buying Citrix, however, would be a significant deal: The company has a market capitalization of $6.4 billion.
It would be safer to wait and see what Microsoft has to say. XenSource and Novell have a certain similarity in the sense that Microsoft can (and probably will) bend them both in Windows’ favour. Microsoft executives are already deep inside XenSource and some announcements previously made seemed to suggest that Linux isn’t a strategic priority as high as it used to be. Consider this another case of using money to divide and leverage Windows through deals and acquisitions. █
Update (22/01/07): The announcement was made hours ago and it only confirms the fact that Microsoft uses Citrix (Xen, by association) to assist its own fight against VMWare.
Citrix is developing a software tool that helps Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization feature in the upcoming Windows Server 2008 to work more easily with Citrix’s XenServer product.
Microsoft has acquired a start-up company called Calista Technologies and expanded its alliance with Citrix Systems, targeting VMware’s early lead in virtualization technology.
The first morning saw heated debate between the panel and the audience, specially after the Communications Minister defended software patents as a way of helping young entrepreneurs get financial support for their projects.
“It’s hard for Microsoft to commit to what comes out of Ecma [the European standards group that has already OK’d OOXML] in the coming years, because we don’t know what direction they will take the formats.”
Microsoft bloggers, including Mary Jo Foley whose career depends on Microsoft, are enthusiastically praising Microsoft for its latest predictable stunt. “Microsoft is bending backwards,” they’ll tell you. “Microsoft changed its ways.” “Microsoft is open, it’s all open.”
“The only company that benefits from OOXML is Microsoft and a few companies that try to join the Microsoft ecosystems and become enslaved to it.”If you look closely at what we have documented here, all that cheering is over a load of rubbish (pardon the language). What we have been seeing in the past year is a multiple-times convicted monopoly abuser resorting to sabotage, briberies, bald-face lies, obstruction of formal processes, lobbying that leads to the loss of jobs and so many other things.
First there is that “oh, we forgot we never gave you the specs of our binary file format” game popping up again through Brian Jones, as if nobody had seen that one coming. So what’s wrong with this? Let me write that again in an easy way: If Microsoft were truly delivering the whole specs, not only would the OOXML spec be at least half smaller, (why do you need all these mysteries about faithfully representing past application behaviors?), but the whole OOXML hoax would be made completely useless.
Besides, there are two elements that are left undiscussed here: Whether Microsoft will actually deliver the specs entirely and not just partially just like they already did before, and when they will publish the specs. All what we have here is, yes, we will deliver you the specs, and you will be prompted to sign a license agreement before you can actually read anything, so that’s again an old story, just like they did during the ballot period in France.
Surely enough, Microsoft will spin this in such a way so that the average person will be incapable of seeing through. Yesterday we explained why this so-called openness from Microsoft is fake and useless. It’s probably just a publicity stunt. It is one among a series that won’t end until the BRM is over and people have had a month to change their decisions. █
This is not the first time I heard about strange patents filed in China.
“This invention is about the method to boot Linux OS on removable storage which is attached to the USB port of PC. It is implemented in a way that firstly, setup Linux OS in the removable storage; then enter BIOS of the PC, to change the boot sequence to USB-HDD or USB-ZIP first; now boot the system, so user can choose the Linux version, and Linux kernel with initrd will be loaded by bootloader from the removable storage to PC memory; then boot the Linux kernel, initialize system and run tasks; mount filesystem of initrd, then switch to root filesystem on the removable storage; detect hardware devices, install drivers and configure them automatically; finally, start the desktop session, after user has input the username and password, detect hardware partitions automatically and mount them.”
This is the abstract. Is UNIX/Linux being patented here? A month ago we mentioned an article which claims that 90% of China's new patents are "garbage" (exact quote). Would this qualify as a good demonstration of this?
I was just surprise that the business of patent trolling is going one step forward by proposing an auction platform to sell “intellectual capital” (as stated on the Ocean Tomo website.) and creating fear about a potential bidder having bad intentions.
Is the future about the passing of imaginary property from one person to another? The litigation does not benefit inventors; it helps lawyers who artificially and proactively increase workload. █
Obviously, Microsoft is pushing hard to get enough votes changed in its favor to achieve ratification as an ISO standard. That was at least partly the motivation for holding the press briefing, which resulted in a rather eclectic group of attendees.
“There were journalists from Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands, and the U.S. in attendance,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Internetnews.com in an e-mail.
For all it seems, people whose decision is important to Microsoft are receiving free trips (i.e. gifts). We saw this before and we also included Rick Jelliffe, who Microsoft flies around to world to advocate OOXML. Need it even be mentioned that Microsoft also paid Rick Jelliffe to edit Wikipedia in OOXML’s favour? Who else is Microsoft paying? The list if long, yet incomplete.
That previous item that we wrote about this issue showed Microsoft take the role of the shepherd, essentially paying people for their love and treating them like sheep. A “follow the herd” phenomenon in OOXML can also be found in this new short article, which aptly titled “Burton study: Follow the herd.”
When you are a large customer you are powerful. Never admit that you still depend on Microsoft products. It is plain stupid. Start your Linux pilot. This annoys your supplier and secures you an appeasement cash-in. Consider alternative products and talk about them. That drives them so crazy that they even draft contracts that prohibits you to talk about alternative software. Eventually you find out that you don’t need their products. Better for you. Stick to midterm open standards migration. The IDABC definition gets it best, this is why they invest so much in lobbying against. I am very curious how the Open Specification Promise (OSP) would make OOXML IDABC Open standards compatible. I strongly doubt it is.
OOXML is part of a negotiation process. Can Microsoft be forced to support ODF? Absolutely. The stronger the rest of the market negotiates the better the results. No one benefits from bowing in.