Yesterday we alerted about the latest attempt to shove software patents into Europe. It’s a back-door technique and Benjamin has more on this subject in the following slideshow. He has also been pointing to articles such as this one because Microsoft’s appeal in Europe, he believes, is more than it seems on the surface.
At the EC’s behest, Microsoft makes such information available to competitors, but on terms that the EC argues are unusable by open source software projects. Microsoft argues that the licensing terms demanded by the EC violate its intellectual property rights.
Benjamin opined that the appeal from Microsoft has its eyes on taxing Free software. Microsoft has meanwhile signed another patent cross-licensing deal, this time with Hoya Pentax.
Monday morning, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) revealed that it has signed a patent cross-licensing agreement with Hoya Corp. PENTAX Imaging Systems division. Pursuant to the deal, the companies have agreed to enhance technological innovation in the field of consumer products including digital cameras. Though the companies have agreed that Microsoft will be compensated by Pentax, no financial terms were disclosed. The deal would help each company in developing their current and future product lines to enhance technological innovation and to boost overall customer and consumer experience. The deal will cover the entire product line manufactured and sold by both the companies, particularly the digital cameras made by Pentax.
Quick search queries seem not to reveal any use of Linux by Hoya Pentax. █
“Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.”
–Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO
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To those who think that Microsoft’s OOXML scandals are over, looking a little further is recommended.
Microsoft Penalises ODF
There are several examples of situations where Microsoft not only promotes OOXML but also actively works against ODF [1, 2]. By its very nature in fact, OOXML is a case against ODF and it’s anti-competitive. But there’s more to it. Watch this analysis which seems to confirm that Microsoft makes ODF look bad, whether deliberately or not [1, 2].
Can someone explain to me why Microsoft Office needs almost 10 minutes to load an ODF file that OpenOffice can load in 14 seconds?
Microsoft Plays Politics Against ODF
You might still recall the maddening situation in France. Groklaw has a little update (translation) on it. The article is here and it’s in French. Part of Groklaw’s translation (from Sean Daly):
The article explains how the head of the DGME in charge of editing the RGI was sacked and replaced following that visit and this letter. Lemaire points out numerous errors and omissions in the document and points out in particular how Microsoft claims to have always been neutral:
“Microsoft, in the name of pluralism and technological neutrality of the State, has requested that OpenXML, open standard, rights-free and documented, in the sense of Article 4 of the LCEN, be recommended also alongside the standard called ODF. Microsoft has always presented a position which is balanced and neutral, asking that equal treatment be respected.”
Speaking of sacking & replacing, be sure to learn how ISO got sort of shuffled and other people met the wrath of Microsoft. Examples include:
Referring to the scandal from France, watch what a government delegate had to say.
Microsoft Won’t Inter-operare
BECTA’s complaint has already been mentioned in [1, 2], but here is another decent article covering this latest debacle, which generated a lot of press coverage.
ODF on the Rise
In this interview with Louis Suarez-Potts it turns out that ODF is doing pretty well indeed, despite all of the corruption we have been tracking for over a year. Microsoft not playing by the rules is bound to make OOXML look bad.
Q: How has the OOXML’s approval affected ODF’s penetration?
Louis : Zero.
Q: What do you see for the OOo and ODF community in the years to come?
Louis : Glory. I mean it. What is the future, I could ask, of Firefox? Will IE7 kill it? No. People appreciate freedom and what it brings, for it brings innovation and the possibility of it. And it brings, implicitly, community—by which I mean a coming together of interests that are not only generated by and dependent upon marketing agendas.
Call for Real Standards (Like ODF) in Europe
Several large European nations have already decided to ignore OOXML and more backlash ensued. Now comes openparliament.eu where you are encouraged to drop your signature if you live in Europe. It can be summarised thusly:
Citizens and stakeholder groups should not have to use the software of a single company in order to communicate with their elected officials or participate in the legislative process.
All companies should be given the chance to compete freely for contracts to supply ICT services to the European Parliament.
Under the shadow of imbalanced press it may be difficult to see the full picture, but ODF is doing pretty well. Declining sales of Microsoft Office, according to Microsoft’s latest quarterly report could — just could — be an indicator of this. As we last stressed yesterday, Microsoft is playing financial game. █
“Unregulated, and illegal, monopoly domination of IT technology that affects virtually every sector of society is a VERY BAD THING, and worth taking a stand in opposition.”
–Linux Today comment
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Google and Linux
Blogs and Rambles
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A couple of days ago we included a link to this exploration of Douglas Goodyear and that connection to Microsoft. We have also been exploring Microsoft’s use of the United States government to push software patents into the European Union.
Earlier came some warnings about McCreevy. He is backed by the French president, Nicolas ‘Microsoft MPAA’ Sarkozy — another dangerous character to keep an eye on [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].
Now comes the following, thanks to our reader who E-mailed a headsup that says “Most Important: Software Patents in the EU through the back door tried again.” Here is the urgent message from FFII:
Brussels, 13 May 2008 — European Commissioner McCreevy is pushing for a
bilateral patent treaty with the United States. This Tuesday 13 May in
Brussels, White House and European representatives will try to adopt a
tight roadmap for the signature of a EU-US patent treaty by the end of
the year. Parts of the proposed treaty will contain provision on
software patents, and could legalise them on both sides of the Atlantic.
“TEC talks are the current push for software patents. The US want to
eliminate the higher standards of the European Patent Convention. The
bilateral agenda is dictated by multinationals gathered in the
Transatlantic Economic Business Dialogue (TABD). When you have a look
who is in the Executive Board of the TABD, you find not a single
European SME in there”, says Benjamin Henrion, a Brussels based patent
The Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC) which comprises EU and US high
level representatives put a substantive harmonisation of patent law on
its agenda. Substantive patent law covers what is patentable or not. The
attempt to impose the low US standards on Europe via the Substantive
Patent Law Treaty (SPLT) process utterly failed at the World
Intellectual Property Organisation. Also progress in the WIPO B+
subgroup (without development nations) could not be reached.
This is why it is so important to watch the movers and to keep abreast of those who set trends. Novell is among them, but let’s not forget Microsoft’s own patent trolls.
Techdirt repeats what we wrote a couple of days ago about Myhrvold getting too much attention (this post won’t help, will it?). It concludes with some harsh words
Nathan Myhrvold [formerly of Microsoft] may not have done much of note yet with Intellectual Ventures, but he sure is good at getting press attention.
And here Myhrvold is either outright lying or he’s ignorant (he can let us know which one). First of all no one has ever said that patent litigation is threatening to stop all innovation. They’ve just said that it is slowing the pace of innovation. And there’s plenty of evidence to support that, despite Myhrvold’s claim that there’s none. James Bessen and Michael Meurer just came out with a whole book detailing much of the evidence, and David Levine and Michele Boldrin also have a book with even more evidence. Did Myhrvold simply not know about these? Or is he lying to PC World?
I’m sure Myhrvold is a smart guy — and he may truly believe that he’s helping inventors and changing the world — but he’s either being purposely misleading or he’s ignorant when it comes to patents and how they interact with the economy.
Also of interest: watch what Microsoft patent application Bruce Schneier wanted to share with his readers, as well as some initial responses to it.
Note that Bill Gates and Ray Ozzie are co-inventers.
Unless there are details of the implementation in the application, it isn’t very original; there have been many slightly different versions of this in science fiction literature for decades.
Posted by: billswift at May 13, 2008 07:25 AM
What has Bill Gates ever invented? Not sure why he would get an ‘invent’ credit on anything. Acquire acquire. Not that he’s not great at exploiting that, but I don’t know that I’ve really heard of anything he has invented himself.
Posted by: jk at May 13, 2008 07:38 AM
Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty █
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“What is this thing called Lunix?!?!”
Richard Steel, a CIO whom we mentioned on several occasions recently [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7], seems to have something in common with Ron Hovsepian, who fails to keep an eye on the market. Is this deliberate or is someone being pressured to wear blinders? Matt Aslett has a go at it.
During a visit to the KommITS conference in Sweden, Richard discovered the following information: “I note that Novell has a local arrangement with Microsoft, which resells its version of Suse Linux to enable Linux exploitation on a Windows platform!” The exclamation mark is his own, and suggests genuine surprise at hearing the news of Microsoft and Novell’s entanglement.
It would be easy to suggest that any CIO must have had their head in the sand not to have been aware of a small agreement that Microsoft and Novell entered into a little while ago, but also I think one also has to accept that for a great number of senior IT executives this sort of information just isn’t as fascinating as open source followers think it is.
Conspiracy theory alert: Newham is one of Microsoft’s flagship local government accounts in the UK following its controversial decision to sign a ten-year agreement with Microsoft after ditching plans to move to an open source environment. Clearly, Newham has less reason then to be interested in Linux and Microsoft’s relationship with Novell than other organizations (it also explains why Microsoft’s SLES voucher-wielding sales team hasn’t been breaking down the door).
Many people will tell you that what Newham and Richard Steel have done so far is a shameful disgrace. They turn an entire nation into a Windows workshop and cite their own studies for validation. █
‘Suffolk told Gartner, “I think we have fundamentally failed on a worldwide basis as an IT industry to understand the cost of what we do. And I roundly blame Gartner for this, because you guys are the ones who come up with TCO [total cost of ownership] benchmarking. It has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.’
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Says a voice in Slashdot
Novell et al released a complete implementation of WinForms and the Slashdot crowd reacts. The Mono/.NET advocates respond in the same typical way that reminds me of Richard Stallman’s talk where he says that people are taught to judge a program by criteria like “How powerful is it?” Not things like “how does it affect my freedom?” (as a user or developer)
Have a look at this new comment from Free Software Daily, which says that “better development methods are meaningless without being able to own the software.
“Without the ownership of the software, you will continue to be at the developers/corporate overlord’s mercy.”
In this case there are two overloads. One is Microsoft which owns software patents and the other is Novell, which has copyrights. █
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OLPC was left devastated by the corruption against it. Attempts to breathe life back into this project after the systematic sabotage have just got Ivan spilling the beans.
OLPC should be philosophically pure about its own machines. Being a non-profit that leverages goodwill from a tremendous number of community volunteers for its success and whose core mission is one of social betterment, it has a great deal of social responsibility. It should not become a vehicle for creating economic incentives for a particular vendor. It should not believe the nonsense about Windows being a requirement for business after the children grow up. Windows is a requirement because enough people grew up with it, not the other way around. If OLPC made a billion people grow up with Linux, Linux would be just dandy for business. And OLPC shouldn’t make its sole OS one that cripples the very hardware that supposedly set the project’s laptops apart: released versions of Windows can neither make good use of the XO power management, nor its full mesh or advanced display capabilities.
Read on because it’s an eye-opener. In other news, Naked Emperor Microsoft has Robert Cringely spilling some beans too.
This has everything to do with business and nothing at all to do with technology. Wearing my business reporter’s fedora, then, I’ll point you back a week or so to Microsoft’s most recent earnings announcement, which disappointed Wall Street. This is significant because it is hard to find a Wall Street analyst who remembers the last time Microsoft’s earnings were disappointing. It simply doesn’t happen. That’s because Microsoft has a myriad of tools for adjusting the numbers to look just right.
More about this here and here. Remember that Microsoft lost about 30 billion dollars in value after the Yahoo bid.
These are the truths you hardly find in the media, which typically has a separate agenda. █
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A: Offer discounts on XP and encourage OEMs to embrace Microsoft-taxed Ballnux
What happens when you discover that choosing a PC with GNU/Linux means paying more than for the same PC with Windows? Shouldn’t free software be inexpensive? Microsoft would love to change this [1, 2, 3].
“Novell is merely following Microsoft’s lead in this, for its own selfish benefit.”We recently debated this very same problem using China's server market as an example, where GNU/Linux can be made more expensive than Windows due to Microsoft’s and Novell’s plot. Novell is merely following Microsoft’s lead in this, for its own selfish benefit.
Someone recently raised the concern that many low-laptops these days pick up a Microsoft-taxed GNU/Linux distribution (also known as “Ballnux”). Might Microsoft be helping Novell getting contracts behind the scenes? We recently uncovered some secret deals Microsoft had been making with laptop manufactures/assemblers.
It’s important to defend Free software’s entry point into the broad consumer market. Most recent additions (from the news) include the muchly-anticipated MSI laptop, which turns out to have picked SUSE.
MSI today has firmed up specs for its Wind mini-notebook, including its launch timeframe. The 10-inch system will closely follow ASUS’ practices with the Eee PC and ship in both a low-cost Linux version (based on Novell’s distribution) as well as a more expensive Windows XP edition.
SUSE is described here as “Linux version (based on Novell’s distribution).” Better than "Microsoft's Suse Linux franchise," right? Here is another news report:
There will be a Novell Linux version and a Windows XP MSI Wind, similar to how the Asus Eee. I do not know why MSI chose Novell Linux, seems a bit odd.
The selection of SUE Linux [sic] wasn’t quite so odd to the Microsoft-friendly CNET, which said this about the Ballnux-loaded ThinkPad a few days ago.
I was gladdened yesterday when techbargains.com reported a sale on a new Lenovo ThinkPad R61 running SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop ($552, see below).
People need to demand that OEMs do not make a Microsoft-owned Linux their de facto choice. This could have horrendous effects that are summarised in the title of this post. Mark Shuttleworth warned about it just over a year ago.
Microsoft cannot make Windows cheaper than free (gratis). In the case of the OLPC, Intel and Microsoft actually covered the cost of hardware to defeat AMD and GNU/Linux, but that’s dumping, which is illegal. As such, Microsoft will try to elevate the cost of GNU/Linux, using software patents and back-room deals. █
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