Ammunition for more crocodile tears
Yesterday we published somewhat a complaint against
rcpmag.com for being part of Microsoft’s mighty media powerhouse, which is self serving of course. Referring to the Avistar situation which we mentioned here before [1, 2, 3], that very same magazine now criticises Microsoft for a change.
Avistar’s Tale: Microsoft Shows Its Dark Side
Whatever. Sorry, Microsoft, but you’re not looking too good in this scenario. This is the dark side of Microsoft, the side we’ve told you about in the magazine, the side that brings out the critics and the haters and the antitrust hounds. This is Microsoft trying to prey on a struggling company that happens to have some attractive IP and litigate that company into oblivion before draining its lifeblood.
There’s free-market capitalism, and then there’s predatory business practices. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between the two, but this falls into the latter category, as far as we can tell. And while we know that Microsoft (along with lots of other big vendors — most others, really) is no stranger to that sort of thing, it doesn’t make it any less disturbing.
Moss said that some of the anti-Microsoft brigade has come to his aid, but mostly with moral support. “We’re in a bar; some guy’s hitting us with a baseball bat, and they’re all going, ‘Come on, Simon! Hit him back!’” Moss said of some of his company’s well-meaning allies. “That’s about it. I’ve got nothing but an ice cream cone.”
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Microsoft’s unpleasant encounters with software patents. Just watch what is coming in Microsoft’s direction.
After a jury verdict that z4’s patent was infringed and not invalid, the Eastern District of Texas district court ordered Microsoft to pay over $100M in damages to the patentee (a small Michigan company) The award was affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC).
And watch what happened the day beforehand. This was anticipated.
Microsoft Corp., the world’s biggest software maker, was told to pay $368 million after a jury found it infringed two patents owned by Alcatel-Lucent SA for touch- screen form entry and use of a stylus on computers.
The development is also covered in this short bit of text, so in case you want to explore the case further, you can. It will certainly return to the headlines in the near future because the impact is high.
Fortunately enough, the rules in the Eastern District of Texas do not apply to the rest of the world. This district does, however, manage to pull a multi-national Germany company like SAP and give it hell, as we reported only a couple of days back. Meanwhile, over in Germany, the very opposite type of action is taken, as just reported by Heise Online.
The European Patent Office (EPO) has revoked patent number EP1040428 for a procedure for computerised prepress. According to printing news site Beyond Print the verdict is binding, but not yet legally enforceable. The reasoning behind the verdict has not yet been released.
The three companies took action against VistaPrint because they viewed data exchange as being of vital significance for the printing industry. The EPO started examining the case in January.
The EPO has truly been maintaining some sanity here, but across the Atlantic you now find this report about the Bush Administration antagonising the patent reform. Who pays those people???
Bush Administration Speaks Against Patent Overhaul
U.S. Senate negotiators are getting closer to hammering out disagreements that are holding up a patent system overhaul, but President George Bush’s administration still has concerns about the bill, an administration official said Friday.
In order for the USPTO to improve the quality of patents granted, “the system must focus on the quality of applications,” Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez said in a letter to senators dated Thursday. “Stated simply, our innovation system can no longer afford the time and the cost of heavily subsidizing poor quality patent applications, which crowd out our most important innovations.”
Each applicant applications costs the USPTO US$4,200, while basic filing fees are under $1,000, Dudas added. “It’s very easy to apply for something while doing only minimal work,” he said.
The decision on patents is probably doomed to remain political. Remember the golden rule: those who have the gold make the rules. It leaves the system in a chicken-and-egg situation, so serious toppling may be needed. Maybe it’s even coming soon. █
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Camels out humping
“We come in peace, so now open up your wallet and pay us for that copy of your Linux.”
Three weeks ago we wrote about Microsoft's presence in yet another Linux event. Microsoft, just as a reminder, views Linux as its number one competitor and at the same time it accuses Linux of "stealing" from Microsoft.
So, just behold the unsurprising news about Microsoft being unwelcome at this latest event. More disturbing, however, is Novell’s role as Microsoft excuse for inviting itself. We saw this before and surely we’ll be seeing more of it in the future.
Microsoft Faces Skeptics at Open Source Conference
Representatives of both companies provided a status report of their collaboration at the annual Linux/Open Source on Wall Street conference held in New York this week. Microsoft says it has sold more than 100,000 SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) licenses to about 60 large enterprise customers, among them Credit Suisse, HSBC, Synovus Financial Corp. and Wal-Mart.
Let us get something straight. When someone who takes (or “steals”, to use Microsoft’s own terminology) revenue from Linux, to which it contributed absolutely nothing (unless technical sabotage, FUD and intimidation count as “contributions”), can any of those so-called ‘skeptics’ be blamed at all? Just wait until anonymous folks come around to stick labels like "zealots" or "haters". It’s easy to discredit using blacklists.
“Watch carefully how Novell’s deal with Microsoft serves as a ticket for Microsoft to enter every Linux and open source conference.”Watch carefully how Novell’s deal with Microsoft serves as a ticket for Microsoft to enter every Linux and open source conference. Novell is praising Microsoft and encouraging people to approach Microsoft with open arms.
Microsoft recently sponsored the SugarCRM conference as well. One can only imagine what they quietly say or whisper to those developers and corporate clients about Linux (“Server 2008 is a superset of Linux”, “GPLv3 is scary”, “Linux patent violation claims are not bogus”, etc.) and how they channel people in Novell’s direction in order for software patent ‘tax’ to be extracted from SLED/SLES.
In other news about betrayal or poor principles, Watch this take on SpikeSource.
Intel’s investment in SpikeSource goes beyond financial ties, however. It has also picked the company to provide its new software testing and validation service, announced alongside the new 2nd generation Classmate PC.
We wrote about SpikeSource the other day and it seems like we were right to assume that MixedSource (a bit like Novell) might be a better name for the company, which has gotten itself a little too cosy with both Microsoft and Intel. At this stage, it even helps Intel with its anti-OLPC project, essentially an anti-charity ‘emergency response’ [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8].
Shane has been covering Novell’s mixed-source identity crisis and last wrote about it over a year ago. He was more recently arguing with Novell employees and/or OpenSUSE developers over at Slashdot where some Novell boosters reside.
To better exemplify Novell’s broken mixed-source strategy, consider the following article from Friday’s news:
Identity Management Based On Open Source Reference Code
The Novell-led Bandit project has announced a solution to help address one of the major business challenges faced by hotel and hospitality enterprises – how to cost effectively connect disparate systems to streamline administration and comply with regulatory requirements. Using open source, the Bandit project has written a reference implementation based on Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG) standards that will bridge various systems and platforms in an enterprise, including legacy systems, with commercially available identity management software.
Mind the dubious use of the term “Open Source Reference Code”. Shades of Microsoft's own dilutions with OOXML. █
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“Great [criminal] minds think alike”
Microsoft’s business crimes is a topic we have been through before (some updates here), so we needn’t run down though examples again. Today’s topic, however, is the big fiasco that revolves around Samsung, which we consider a no-go area ever since it decided to pay Microsoft for Linux, or rather, for baseless accusations and unsubstantiated claims. In that sense, Samsung did Microsoft a great FUD favour/lip service and to Linux developers it was a disservice.
Those two companies, Microsoft and Samsung are closer than most people realise. Among the projects they collaborated on recently: Origami, RAM chips (Vista), USB solutions for Windows and much more.
Today’s news comes from MSBBC.
Prosecutors question Samsung boss
The boss of South Korea’s Samsung Group has appeared before special prosecutors to be questioned over allegations of corruption at the firm.
Lee Kun-hee, chairman of the company, the country’s largest conglomerate, is being questioned in regard to an investigation that started in January.
With a global workforce of 754,000, it enjoys annual profits of more than $14bn.
For background on this case, see this article from The Inquirer.
Samsung bribery scandal embroils politicians
SAMSUNG IS bracing itself for an investigation into allegations of bribery and corruption that go to the heart of the Korean government.
According to AFP, Kim says he saw a bribery list kept in a secret vault in Samsung’s headquarters.
It is a very large company at the moment and it will be interesting to find out just how much misconduct was involved and — more importantly — where. █
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When it’s cheaper to corner and squash rivals than to make better products…
In the previous post we showed an attack by Microsoft against a prominent figure. Microsoft made it personal. This was intended to promote Microsoft’s business interests. It also serves as a warning sign to anyone else who ‘dares’ to question OOXML.
We promised to write some more about Microsoft's proxy fight against Yahoo because not only does it bear a resemblance to the above only at a larger scale, but it also intensified yesterday. In case you have not seen those development in the news yet, here are a bunch of headlines with accompanying snippets.
1. CNET: Microhoo: Ballmer takes off his gloves
What Ballmer means: Jerry, you are making us both look bad. It’s time to get in gear, and if I have to bring on the irate dancing monkey and go straight to the shareholders, I will.
2. Wall Street Journal: Microsoft Threatens Yahoo Board With Proxy Battle, Lower Bid
Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Steven A. Ballmer threatened Yahoo Inc. directors with a hostile takeover of the company if they don’t reverse course and agree to a deal within the next three weeks.
You will find some more details in this most recent update from CNET.
Microsoft on Saturday issued an ultimatum to Yahoo, giving the Internet search pioneer three weeks to enter formal merger negotiations and conclude a deal.
The software giant threatened to launch a proxy fight to unseat Yahoo’s board of directors, as well as take its case straight to Yahoo investors should no deal be reached in that period.
And as a further cattle prod in getting a deal consummated, Microsoft threatened to lower its existing bid, citing how Yahoo’s value will be hurt if it needs to resort to such hostile means.
“It’s all very similar to what you find in those infamous OOXML abuses, wherein Microsoft just sets the deck and games the system…”This is not exactly a topic for us to cover because it’s broad and would most likely prove to be a distraction, but if you have watched this saga since the beginning, then you would know that Microsoft urged various parties (proxies) to legally assault Yahoo and apply pressure to it. Additionally, Microsoft tries to grab seats on the board (squeezing in ‘insiders’, potentially secretly, according to last week’s reports) so as to make Yahoo more ‘compliant’ until it re-evaluates the offer, this time deciding ‘properly’.
It’s all very similar to what you find in those infamous OOXML abuses, wherein Microsoft just sets the deck and games the system by ensuring only obedient people are to vote, or at least a sufficiently-large majority of them. Watching what Microsoft has done to Yahoo so far is painful because the tactics are truly appalling.
Listed below are headlines we have accumulated and they are sorted roughly chronologically to tell you the story so far:
For those who still believe that a Yahoo takeover would be a ‘win’ for Microsoft (like the OOXML 'win'), consider the following article which appeared in Forbes just over a fortnight ago. Of interest:
Co-founder Bill Gates can’t be thrilled with watching Ballmer drain the company’s cash. He didn’t get so rich by buying at the top of the market.
Going a little further back, watch the detailed article from Reuters:
Microsoft Corp said on Monday it may borrow money for the first time in its history to fund a portion of its $44.6 billion unsolicited offer for Yahoo Inc.
Or from Glyn Moody:
The rest of the $44.6bn (£22.3bn) deal would be financed with an undisclosed amount of credit.
What that means is that it must squeeze as much money as it can from its operations to fund that debt and still pay dividends to shareholders, who will be looking for some payback from the Yahoo takeover. Giving away software is the last thing it would want to do in these circumstances, and
the DreamSpark announcement shows just how worried it is about the future.
We wrote more extensively about Microsoft financial issues right here. Do not be misled into thinking that Microsoft can defeat Google quite so easily. It can cause harm to some competitor, albeit at a hugely high cost.
To reduce expenses, Microsoft reaches out to foreign labour. We wrote about this recently in order to show that Microsoft uses nothing but excuses and resorts to truth-bending in order to justify its actions (mocking Americans’ intelligence in the process). Here are a couple of picks from the latest news. What you see here is a form of blackmail for visas (c/f other forms of Microsoft blackmail in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]).
Visa woes? Microsoft has Vancouver, B.C.
The majority of those workers are graduates of U.S. universities who can’t stay in the country because of visa issues, said Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos. Another 15 percent to 20 percent are from Canadian universities, Gellos said.
Who Got H-1B Visas Petitions Approved Last Year? Look At The List
The top 25 H-1B visa recipient companies contacted by Durbin and Grassley this week include Infosys, Wipro, Satyam, Cognizant, Microsoft, and Tata.
Marketing is the art of hypnosis. Microsoft is doing as well as it manages to have you believe it does. Learn not to trust what you are told about Microsoft by the press and the analysts whom it cites. Microsoft is a lot more fragile that most people realise. █
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Intimidating opposition again
Microsoft, perhaps finally realising that OOXML as an ISO standard is not a done deal yet, is still trying to get those who oppose OOXML in deep trouble, putting their whole careers in jeopardy in hope of driving them away.
Watch this latest update on the situation in India:
Industry experts said they were “unhappy” with the Microsoft which has almost accused the committee of being packed with “open document format (ODF) supporters”.
“I am very upset and uncomfortable with such complaints. In fact, the chairperson of the committee (LITD 15) offered to step down over the allegation,” D.B. Phatak, professor at IIT Mumbai, told DNA Money.
IIT Mumbai is a member of LITD 15, and Phatak was part of the deliberations that have been taking place within IIT on the issue.
Phatak said a Microsoft official was asked if it would withdraw the complaint, but the company refused as the “complaint was made by some higher officer in Microsoft”.
Jaijit Bhattacharya, country director of government strategy for Sun Microsystems India, a company that has been at loggerheads with Microsoft for years, talks in a similar vein.
“I am surprised that such allegations are made against India’s top academic and government institutions … such allegations lack credibility,’ Bhattacharya said. Venkatesh Hariharan, co-founder Open Source Foundation of India said, “I am just amazed and shocked at the depths to which Microsoft is willing to descend.”
He said Microsoft’s complaint is a “great disservice to the committee, its chairperson and the BIS”.
We have discovered many such stories recently. Just to repeat a few by citation, we shall break those into three groups containing some of the examples which we have.
Smears, intimidation, or bullying against opposition:
Recent posts about OOXML in India:
We don’t write much in this Web site about Microsoft’s unsolicited bid and proxy war against Yahoo, but we wrote about it here and yesterday came another blow from Microsoft. Some more news of interest you will find in the next post, which hopefully puts this current disturbing post in better perspective. That is just how Microsoft does business. It’s merciless. It’s “ruthless”, as Cringely says repeatedly in his more critical pieces.
“Microsoft hopes to escape its past by reshaping perceptions, essentially a denial of provable truths.”Be aware that the ‘Talking Heads of Microsoft’ deny all things and already try to rewrite history. Rob Enderle, for example, writes that “there is no evidence that it [Microsoft] has [cheated].” Really? Need one beg his pardon or just serve heaps of existing evidence with a large shovel?
Microsoft hopes to escape its past by reshaping perceptions, essentially a denial of provable truths. Microsoft may have the necessary means, so it’s important to counter them. If it repeats something often enough, maybe a majority of people will start to believe it and be able to refute hard evidence using the Big Lie. One of those lies is that Microsoft is innocent and that it complied with the rules. █
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As stated last week by OpenMalaysia, “what is the point is that we have collectively, globally, bore witness to an awesome display of power by a single corporation. Awesome. Ruthless, even.
“Microsoft is not being given much resistance about its attempt to spin the situation as IBM vs Microsoft”“That Microsoft would fight in every nook and cranny, every possible avenue, every committee, sub-committee, sub-sub-committee, upwards, downwards and sideways to the committees, is simply astounding. That Microsoft can and did encourage the final decision makers to ignore the wishes of their own standards bodies, majorities be damned, is further affirmation of this awesome display.” This venting of frustration by one who was personally involved in the process came to show just how a single company and its allies single-handedly managed to decide for the rest of the world on something that everyone resisted.
A reader wrote to us to share some further thoughts on what Microsoft has done in order to misrepresent IBM and conveniently mislead those who will consequently misinterpret the whole situation.
Microsoft is not being given much resistance about its attempt to spin the situation as IBM vs Microsoft rather than the sum of 600+ OASIS companies/universities/agencies and several dozen of the world’s nations vs Microsoft.
The strategy in this and other Microsoft products is to make it political discussion. It will lose any technical discussion. Then the task is to let the party members in the press corps spread the Microsoft spin that it is *one*, single vendor versus another *one*, single vendor to give the illusion of equal weight. Lastly, disparaging remarks are used to cast aspersions on the entity Microsoft party members have tried to highlight as the sole representative of the opposition.
Some of the latest moves by Microsoft against IBM were described yesterday. Andy Updegrove has another good article which talks about what he characterizes as “Politicalization”. That is the process by which Microsoft is able to distract people from the candidate at hand and have the whole process escalated or warped into ‘politics’ rather than technical details. One mustn’t forget, for example, the involvement by even presidents of large countries in this debate. They were persuaded by Microsoft and then reportedly intervened. Andy concludes with the following words:
What needs to change: Politicalization and the recognition of Civil ICT Rights and Standards is a game changer for standards development. What this means is that we need to pay far greater attention to concerns such as balance, representation, and process. For example, it would be no more acceptable for open source advocates to “stack” a committee than for advocates of a single vendor, or group of vendors, since all of these groups – and other groups not represented at all – have a stake in the outcome.
While engaging in appeals in the case of OOXML may expose the inadequacy of the system to address such concerns, they will not solve them, nor necessarily result in a change of the vote in question, since existing rules may not in fact have been violated. Instead, what is needed is a neutral, systemic review of how the process failed – and how it needs to change – so that future abuses can be avoided before they have an impact, and so that appeals can be brought that will be successful in changing affected votes.
The time to begin that review is now. And the way to undertake it is not through the existing appeals process.
What we have left for the time being is a proprietary, buggy and obscure format that is inherently incompatible with the GNU GPL (hardly by accident). The same reader whom we mentioned above sent us a pointer to this quote:
“We’re not going to invest in trying to implement a standard that is poorly defined,” Shuttleworth said, maintaining that the specification can be altered and added to as Redmond wishes – regardless of its rivals’ product cycles.
Remind yourself of the fact that nobody will ever implement OOXML support, not even Microsoft, which will call its format “Open XML” although it is not what’s in the specifications. It’s just a de facto standard (Microsoft Office format) which remains implemented by none. Its sole purpose is to derail migration plans, or even to move goalposts as to hinder vendors who can successfully import binary Office files. █
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