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03.27.08

Microsoft Invited Over to Enter the Gates and Serve the Bill

Posted in Finance, Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 10:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Who left this mess on the carpet?

The Coy Microsoft

It remains rather astounding that many in the open source world still have some trust in Microsoft, despite repeated betrayals and a rapid flow of evidence which must serve as a warning. To sum it all up, Microsoft wishes to charge Free software developers per copy and also ensure that they are tied to the Microsoft stack, in which case end users must pay Microsoft anyway. That’s the gist of the plan. It imposes a higher price on Microsoft’s most threatening competition.

Vis-a-vis cost issues, if you thought OOXML was all open and free, think again. Groklaw has just found another gotcha in the OSP:

Eek. I understand that to be saying that there are gaps in OSP coverage. You’ll get documents you can’t legally open unless you are using Microsoft’s software, because the extensions found in Office but not in OOXML proper, so to speak, are not covered. Let me explain what I think they are saying this means.

We knew we’d get documents we couldn’t open effectively from a technical standpoint, without at least losing something in the translation. But if extensions to the OOXML format, as exemplified in Microsoft Office 2007, are not covered by the OSP, and evidently they are not, when you get a document with, say, spreadsheet macros, or DRM, what legally protects you if open the document? All Microsoft has to do, then, is extend the format, as it already has, and you then can only interoperate with them if you use Microsoft software too. So. OSP gaps. Nice work if you can get it.

As usual, it’s all very implicit, hidden, vague and partly so because of the need to gain ISO’s approval. OOXML is a software patent trap. Wait until it gets uglier, probably after the ambush phase.

The Angry Microsoft

Remember May 2007? Here is a new reminder. [via Digital Majority]

Microsoft Mum on Alleged Patents Violated

[...]

So basically, it comes down to what Microsoft is willing to publicly admit their reasoning of the alleged patent violations is ‘because we said so!’ They will not provide any other evidence (actual patents) because ‘(it) is not something that any other company in our industry does today’.

Yes, it figures. This was seen before. Emperor Microsoft is naked, but it wants you to wear blinders. While we’re at it, Microsoft is in far greater trouble than most people realise. That’s why it got so aggressive. It’s a sign of desperation and inability to coexist under the current market rules where Free software beats Microsoft on TCO terms under most or all circumstances.

The Demanding Microsoft

Here comes the beef of this post and also our main gripe. Watch how Microsoft tries to phase in its software patent 'religion'.

“We live on both sides of the patent fence every day. We have more patent lawsuits than any company in our industry,” he [Microsoft's Brad Smith] said. “And yet we still believe in the benefits and value of a well-functioning patent system.”

Here is a newer article which is more blunt and direct: Royalties are the admission price Microsoft tells freetards [sent in by a reader]

Let’s be perfectly clear. Everything is up for negotiation and nothing is off the table when it comes to Microsoft’s dealings with open source. Except for one thing: patents.

Microsoft’s legal chief Brad Smith this week made it abundantly clear that while Microsoft is increasingly prepared to deal with open source companies and projects, the company won’t surrender ownership of patents in Windows – contrary to the wishes of many.

This bad article, which also uses the derogatory word “freetards”, actually comes from Asay’s friend on the face of it. Watch this new blog item.

I [Matt] had lunch with Gavin Clarke (The Register) and Dave Rosenberg (MuleSource) today at the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC). We ate in the hotel restaurant, rather than getting free food at the conference, because I needed a break. I was willing to pay for solitude. I needed to go “offline” for a bit.

This whole chain of articles just carries on and on. Even DisinformationWeek serves us some of Microsoft’s bits of FUD.

The Miserable Microsoft

A reader wrote to us this afternoon, regarding the articles above. He says:


“This is the only strategy they have against Linux: Software Patents.”This is the only strategy they have against Linux: Software Patents. Bet they will use the same strategy against ODF and any competing product. Microsoft Brad Smith insists on attacking Free Software (=GNU/Linux and community-driven projects) while monetizing on Open Source (as far as it runs on Windows) by trying to tax Open Source ‘entities’ with royalties for the use of Microsoft software patents.

Who let this guy in the conference? Microsoft should be automatically and explicitly banned from every FLOSS related event. The licences they managed to insert in the OSI should now be revoked as “open source”. If it is patent-encumbered it’s not open.


The answer is actually right here on this Web site. Matt Asay (of the OSI) invited Brad Smith and it’s safe to insist that it was a bad idea all along. I sent Matt the following quick message:


Re: Inviting Brad

Hi Matt,

Microsoft received a lot of positive coverage from their visit to OSBC.

http://www.regdeveloper.co.uk/2008/03/27/microsoft_brad_smith_patents_royalties/

I warned about this a month ago, but you told me it was a good idea.

I am pretty disappointed to find out it was you who invited them/him. It was a bad idea from the get-go, IMHO.


To be fair, he was quick to respond (almost promptly) and his views should hopefully add the necessary balance.


I’ve seen coverage, but I’m not sure much of it has been “positive.” And I see nothing wrong with Microsoft making the attempt, real or otherwise, to bridge out. When it’s not real, we slap it down. You’re a smart guy. doubt you’re going to be easily swayed. The takeaway that I’ve seen again and again in the press has been, “Microsoft really needs to figure out how to make its patents play nicely with open source.”

Isn’t that your position, too? And if they can’t (which, indeed, they can’t), then they need to scrap them and join up.


The point seems valid, but it doesn’t truly make up for the damage done. Business people will open up their morning paper and read about Microsoft asking open source companies to pay for software patents.

The Real Microsoft

A reader sent us some more interesting information about OSBC just a couple of hours ago when all these conversations took place. Here it is:


Matt Asay found this piece of report about OSBC. The important thing is that -under anonymity- Microsoft employees openly discuss their hatred sentiment towards Open Source/Free Software: In their mindset “free” has nothing to do with “freedom”, for them it just means “no-money”, so despite the politeness and deception game being played by Brad Smith and other top-executive strategist -Bill Hilf, etc- (Ballmer has some slips of the tongue, though… it reminds me about a song by “Mano Negra” titled “the monkey speaks his mind”, ouch!) their true colors are these:”Kill GNU/Linux and Free Libre Open Source”.

Source: http://www.uberpulse.com/us/2008/03/osbc_open_source_is_stealing.php

[OSBC] Open Source is Stealing, Copying Proprietary Software!

Story posted on: March 25, 2008

After Microsoft’s top lawyer, Brad Smith, keynote I hang out with some Microsofties to get a sense of their thoughts on open source, software patents, etc… To my surprise they were very much vocal about their anti-open source feelings. In exchange, they did ask for their names not to appear, just in case “upper management” would want to reprimand them for speaking out what Microsoft really thinks “inside”.

“Open source is stealing. What open source does is copying proprietary software and giving it away for free. Open source is not about innovation or innovating, it’s about copying. It infringes on everybody’s patents. Not just Microsoft’s. But we’re just the most vocal about it. We just can not see this happening and not do anything to protect our business [...] What open source and communism have in common,
is that there are both failed systems”.

I just don’t see the chasm between Microsoft and the open source community disappear anytime soon, not even in the middle of this century like Smith alluded to. On one side, you have Microsoft who think people should pay for software. On the other, well… software is free. In the end, it’s all about money and business model.

And I think Microsoft makes so much money selling Windows, Office and its server software that it’s too late for them to change their business model at least for these “legacy” activities. So I predict the fight will go on as long as Microsoft’s legacy businesses are successful and that they did not find other sources of revenues to compensate the loss for “freeing” the legacy activities


Everyone, including the OSI, must be aware of the remarks that come from Microsoft. They don’t wish well to the Free software world. If they are seen as forthcoming, the question to ask is, what are they looking to gain? They operate on behalf of shareholders, to whom Linux and Free software are probably the most considerable threat, by Microsoft’s own admission.

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9 Comments

  1. Victor Soliz said,

    March 27, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Gravatar

    Yeah thanks for that Groklaw, like I said before I think OOXML actually stands for optionally-open, this is due to prior experience on how .net works.

    .net has been released to ECMA and MS offers it as open stuff , EXCEPT for system.windows.forms.

    So, what happens is that all the MS IDES (And SharpDevelop) will almost make it explicit to the user that he must use system.windows.forms, you decide to make an application and it will use windows.forms by default, you got to opt-out and there is no other easy way to have GUI in a .net app without that. And that’s not the only case, MS enforces extensions, like SQL server and other issues.

    This is the reason MONO fails to do the only job you would have considered as useful to Linux, let people use important .net apps outside the framework, let me talk from experience that this happens specifically to “Da Vinci” the Bolivian tax client software which was implemented on vb.net and among other things requires you to run a SQLserver client and comes with activeX components… Thus it is impossible to run it on MONO in Linux anyways.

    So, that’s how I think it would work in Office, MS will forever advertize OOXML as the ultimate open document standard, let’s just assume you actually were able to implement such 6000 pages long format, and that you give enough confidence on the OSP to implement it, you will still be screwed up since MS is most likely to make office in a way that users will be (unsuspectingly) forced into using the non-covered extensions, since it will be VERY easy to add them to your OOXML document, and VERY hard not to add them.

  2. Victor Soliz said,

    March 27, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Gravatar

    Wow, FLOSS copies from proprietary software, therefore it must suck…

    Reminds me of internet explorer 7 implementing tabs, or OS/X Leopard implementing workspaces, but hey, who cares about those fine examples? It is better to blindly follow crazy MS accusations…

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 27, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Gravatar

    Watch this image (some context here)

    Edit:

    Hmm… I realise now that the image is no longer there and I can’t find a copy. The description hopefully explains what was shown there.

  4. CoolGuy said,

    March 27, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Gravatar

    Let microsoft implement GPL in their sql server/.net and then the OSI will talk with them.

    Why does FOSS have to build bridges, when its M$ that has to row the boat to us in the frist place.

    Look at their bad behaviour with the OOXML and some dumbass still thinks that M$ wants to interoperate with FOSS.

    M$ got invited because the decisions are made by the wrong kind of people that crept inside the OSI board and now they are bullying the OSI board into having their own way – just like M$ likes to do…

    F*** their interoperability shit. Let them die a slow and painful death.

  5. CoolGuy said,

    March 27, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Gravatar

    why are my post not visible ???

  6. CoolGuy said,

    March 27, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Gravatar

    @roy

    you can get the image from the browser cache

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 27, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    Gravatar

    It was about a year ago that I browsed that site. I tried again to find a copy. Burned 5 minutes doing so without success. :-(

  8. Roy Bixler said,

    March 27, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    Gravatar

    Those “softies” must have drank a lot of Koolaid to come to a view of patents like this. They seem to believe that patents are only there to enforce private monopolies on ideas and anyone who uses those ideas without a “licence” from the patent holder is “stealing”.

    Reality check: patents are there to encourage the publication of good ideas for the public good. The “carrot” for the “inventor” of the idea is a temporary monopoly on its use. When patents were originally conceived, the world ran much more slowly and mathematical concepts were not supposed to be patentable, so a 17-20 year temporary monopoly on an idea may have been more reasonable at the time.

    What these “softies” are now saying is that mathematical concepts (i.e. software, algorithms) are patentable, they deserve a 17-20 year duration on that already questionable patent and that their patent application doesn’t even have to describe the idea they implement in their software well enough for anyone else to use the patent for its intended purpose. To top it off, everyone knows that software development moves quickly and a patent which lasts 17-20 years is a ridiculously long time in that field. Anyone who is using software patents as a basis of a monopoly is essentially making windfall profits from a bad court decision that allowed software patents in the first place.

    Software patents are not serving the public good. Instead of resulting in the publication of ideas that otherwise would not have been published, they prevent or restrict the use of ideas that are already well known. Software patents need to be abolished.

  9. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 27, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Gravatar

    The ‘inventor’ of the browser cookie cynically spoke about the fact that it took him just an hour to implement (‘invent’) and patenting the damn thing would have taken ages.

    Microsoft keeps looking for others to blame for the fact that software is becoming a commodity.

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