12.25.08

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2008: Year in Review

Posted in Finance, Formats, GNU/Linux, Law, Linspire, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, OpenDocument, Patents, Site News at 5:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Shane and I wrote 4,926 posts. It has been a long ride since the site began about 2 years ago and issues that we covered here varied so as to mostly focus on risks to Free software and how they can be tackled. The Novell deal merely triggered the beginning of a Microsoft strategy for harming GNU/Linux, primarily through Microsoft APIs, formats, and software patents. Here are a few key observations, which we shall keep short because long posts are rarely read thoroughly.

  • Software patents unrest grew. We saw the decision regarding Bilski putting at risk a vast number of software patents, the EPO staff taking it to the streets in protest, and a few new coalitions against software patents created. Nokia/Symbian saw a key ruling in the UK threatening to change the status quo, but the UK-IPO remained unmoved. The Community patent, which some consider a back door to software patents and extensive damage claims in Europe, reached a standstill too.
  • Novell drops. Novell continues to operate at a loss, its staff shrank in size, its market cap sank and its stock fell by about 50%. To be fair, many other companies suffered similarly.
  • Open source loses its religion. It becomes unclear what open source means and whether it just refers to some code that depends on proprietary frameworks or resides on so-called ‘clouds’. It’s therefore advisable that those who care about freedom abstain from using the term and instead preach about Free (as in freedom) software.
  • ODF won. The crowd this standard was aimed at was mostly governments, whose adoption of the standard would cascade down and enable non-discriminatory access to vital information that belongs to the public. Not only have the OOXML corruptions shown what an abusive company stands behind it, but they also proved that OOXML was not worthy of adoption, let alone approval
  • GNU/Linux gained. In the world’s top computers, Linux reached a market share of 94% (virtualisation accounted for). In the embedded space, Linux continued performing solidly and many more phones were shipped with Linux. An increasing number of companies turn to Linux consortia or do it themselves with Linux in order to reduce costs and have development/maintenance delegated to other companies (pooled resources, peer production). In sub-notebooks, GNU/Linux is reportedly holding a share of about 40%, although it depends on one’s source of information. This has already led to a decline in Windows revenue, which made Microsoft rather frantic.
  • Free Software took on the Big Guns. Towards the very end of the year, the FSF decided to assert its rights to defend the freedom of GPL-licensed software, so it sued Cisco. This came after a key ruling that essentially grants copyrights teeth to Free software.
  • Transparency embraced. The values encouraged by the Free software movement have been widely accepted not just in software. Some attribute the win of the democratic party to an effort of mass participation and control taken by a population of informed individuals.
  • Only the freest survive. The company formerly known as “Lindows” is no more. So is Windows bound to disappear next? Not so soon. Linspire was sold to Xandros, resulting in a scandal and legal action.

    It seems likely, based on knowledge about market distortion, that Microsoft will have some shocking news to tell, possibly after an announcement of layoffs (5,000-10,0000 employees) next month. A lesser known fact is that Microsoft has few tangible assets and almost no money left in the bank. Media distortion and attacks on critics, however, keep it elevated, as well as the perception that Microsoft is needed because it holds an industry of shackled individuals who depend on it.

Some say that society has cycles of predatory capitalism and more social phases where betrayed people suffer and bail out those who caused the problems in the first place. With the economy predicted to get worse next year, the short-term future of Free software holds a lot of promise.

On a personal level, I wish to thank our many readers, few of whom comment and therefore become visible. I hope to persist with activism for some time to come; it is convenient and affordable when one voluntarily lives on campus. People twice or three times my age attest to a similar experience.

As regular readers probably know, Groklaw has been dormant for several weeks. In order to help PJ’s endeavors, donations can be considered. Bruce Perens’ Web site, Technocrat, has just been shut down (no access to old articles, either). Let’s not allow more of this to happen as this would leave just corporations-controlled ‘news’ sites to misinform people.

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4 Comments

  1. mpz said,

    December 25, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Gravatar

    It has been an eventful year hasn’t it. And with more and more money ‘at stake’, it can only continue I think.

    Merry xmas.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 25, 2008 at 5:15 pm

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    There will be news coming January. Many cuts were deferred until January because of the holidays (November was a killer).

  3. twitter said,

    December 26, 2008 at 1:33 am

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    Bruce now has a message about why he pulled the plug and Groklaw put up a story December 20 saying PJ was on vacation. It is too bad Bruce did not try to sell subscriptions.

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 26, 2008 at 4:19 am

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    I asked him to at least keep his archives (old pages) live.

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