Summary: More rumours about Microsoft layoffs following abysmal results
MARY Jo Foley has a speculative post about more Microsoft layoffs (large drops in revenue and profit may require it). Therein she quotes Microsoft’s CFO, but there are missing bits of text. She then asks herself, “So does all that mumbo-jumbo translate to no more layoffs? Probably — at least for the rest of this calendar year. But not definitively….”
Mary Jo Foley believes that Chris Liddell said, “I don’t see any potential for us to lower our expenses for the rest of this year,” but other bits of text could occupy the missing part. It is left for people’s imagination to decide whether Microsoft will suffer the pain it inflicted upon others over the years, using violations. █
“We should whack them [Dell over GNU/Linux dealings], we should make sure they understand our value.”
–Paul Flessner, Microsoft
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Summary: More ‘stolen’ ideas get patented by Microsoft while the USPTO shows its weaknesses
EVERY once in a while it is worth reminding everyone that numeric counts of patents mean too little if the quality of the patents is low and thus they are simple to invalidate.
Microsoft was never known for innovation, no matter how much it repeated the word “innovation”. Since its early days, Microsoft’s modus operandi was to “copy the product that others innovate, put them into Windows so they can’t be unplugged, and then give it away for free,” to quote Oracle’s chief, Larry Ellison.
Microsoft is known to have copied Lotus (see antitrust exhibits which shows that they systematically do this with other products too) and then patented this copying of features. That too is just so typical when it comes to Microsoft. Here is Microsoft patenting the “emotiflag”, which is not Microsoft’s invention at all. From the news:
Microsoft wins ‘emotiflag’ patent, despite Lotus Notes precedent
A few years ago, Microsoft made headlines for seeking a patent on the email “emotiflag” — an emoticon, chosen by the sender, that appears along with the subject line in the recipient’s inbox. The application was controversial because the idea was actually introduced years earlier as “Mood Stamps” in Ray Ozzie’s Lotus Notes.
As Scientes puts it, “USPTO fails to do a simple web search for prior art, gives Microsoft invalid patent.”
Network World (IDG) asks, “Why would Microsoft patent a ‘butt hinge with butt straps’?”
You can look for yourself in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database: Patent No. 5,819,372; inventor: Robert D. Magoon, Duluth, Ga.; assignee: Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, Wash.
I asked Microsoft’s public relations department at the time but they were unable to assist.
Then life moved on.
Microsoft has been actively engaged in brainwashing (indoctrinating) children so that they become fans of patents.
“Microsoft has been actively engaged in brainwashing (indoctrinating) children so that they become fans of patents.”One of our readers brought to our attention a Web site called “Invent Now”
“It’s like a “patent Kool-Aid kit” for children,” explains the reader, adding that it “seems to be sponsored by the UPSTO.”
To quote from the parental section: “Teachers, inspire your students through problem-solving exercises, exploration, creativity and the inventive process. At the same time engage them in learning about the intellectual property protections of patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.”
“I think the whole purpose of this site is to push patents now that they’re being questioned,” opines our reader.
There are many other interesting posts and articles about patents this week. Here is a sample of some that are more relevant:
• No Patents for Circuits? Since You Insist…
I love this argument:
Arguments against software patents have a fundamental flaw. As any electrical engineer knows, solutions to problems implemented in software can also be realized in hardware, i.e., electronic circuits. The main reason for choosing a software solution is the ease in implementing changes, the main reason for choosing a hardware solution is speed of processing. Therefore, a time critical solution is more likely to be implemented in hardware. While a solution that requires the ability to add features easily will be implemented in software. As a result, to be intellectually consistent those people against software patents also have to be against patents for electronic circuits.
Since software is just algorithms, which is just maths, which cannot be patented, and this clever chap points out that circuits are just software made out of hardware, it follows that we shouldn’t allow patents for circuits (but they can still be protected by copyright, just as software can.)
• The Fact That A Credit Card Is Patented Is A Selling Point?
In the (snail) mail this week I happened to get an ad for the Visa Black Card, which Visa is pitching as “exclusive,” though I’m guessing that exclusivity is mostly based on finding enough suckers to pay a $500 annual fee for the card.
• D Ravi Kanth: A Trips-plus agenda at WIPO
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’ is a timely reminder for key actors who are bent on pushing failed agendas. As governments and multilateral institutions struggle to recover from a pervasive crisis of confidence stemming from the current political and economic climate, it is important to not make the same mistakes all over again. But the tendency is to cock a snook at such warnings.
Internally, the abrupt removal of Ram Kishan Singh, a junior official, who worked for nine years in the organisation with an outstanding record and the proposed reforms in the staffing pattern raise serious questions whether developing country officials are specific targets in the onward march of a renewed western IP agenda at WIPO!
• In China And India, Stronger Intellectual Property Is Unnecessary
Stronger intellectual property may also be unnecessary in another way. Although they are promoted as a tool for enhancing economic competitiveness, readers of Techdirt will know that their effectiveness is, at most, questionable. In the 1980s, there was a boom in American patenting activity, seemingly corresponding with changes to intellectual property laws that were made in response to worries about diminishing national competitiveness (Dahlman 2001). A measure of useful innovation, Total Factor Productivity, should have increased accordingly with the rise in useful, novel and non-obvious inventions, but this has not been the case (Boldrin 2008), providing compelling evidence that, contrary to common usage, patent activity is not equitable with economic benefits.
• Costly Drugs Known as Biologics Prompt Exclusivity Debate
For starters, whatever the exclusivity period, biologic drugs would also continue to be protected from copycats by patents. And in many cases, the patent protection would last longer than the exclusivity period, making the Congressionally mandated exclusivity a moot point.
Genentech’s Avastin, for instance, has patent protection until 2019 — 15 years after the drug’s 2004 approval by the F.D.A. The company’s breast cancer drug, Herceptin, has patents that extend 21 years from its 1998 approval.
• Another bad day for IP auctions as first ICAP sale hits record low
I have just heard the results of the first ICAP Ocean Tomo IP auction, held this afternoon in Chicago. According to the reports I have had, a total of just over $1.5 million was raised, excluding buyer and seller premiums. This is lower than any amount raised at any Ocean Tomo auction and is comfortably less than the approximately $2.75 million generated in San Francisco in March – which itself was seen as pretty disastrous.
• Has Google Forgotten Celera?”
One of the reasons I wrote my book Digital Code of Life was that the battle between the public Human Genome Project and the privately-funded Celera mirrored so closely the battle between free software and Microsoft – with the difference that it was our genome that was at stake, not just a bunch of bits.
Patent unrest is very high these days, and not just in the field of software. █
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Summary: Microsoft’s loadable module had to be GPL licensed, but Microsoft asserts that it was compliant from the get-go
THE news about Microsoft’s Linux module simply won’t stop. We wrote about this in:
The claim that Microsoft complied after GPL violations is now being refuted by Vyatta’s management. Microsoft agrees.
Reports that Microsoft had to release the Hyper-V Linux Integration Components (LinuxIC) under the GPLv2 because they had violated the GPL have been rebutted by Microsoft and Vyatta. Vyatta had been referenced by reports as the source of the accusation.
This debunks some more reports such as this one, but it remains true that Novell was a notable collaborator. From Silicon.com:
What made Microsoft open up to Linux? Ask Novell
Microsoft’s move to offer several Linux drivers owes a lot to a key programmer at Novell.
Microsoft’s chief ally in the Linux realm, Novell, helped the software giant work with the Linux kernel community.
Vincent Danen asks, “What’s in it for them?” [for Microsoft]
As rudely as always, Microsoft defends its racketeering practices. SoftPedia does them a favour by printing what seems like a propaganda piece against Red Hat. This also includes a partial list of companies that participate in the Linux racket.
Novell stands out from the crowd of Linux vendors that have inked IP assurance agreements with Microsoft, but there are others, including Xandros, TurboLinux, Samsung, LG Electronics, Fuji-Xerox, Brother, TomTom and Kyocera Mita.
IDG approaches some routinely-Microsoft-hired analysts who pretend that Microsoft has changed. Even IDC, which is affiliated with IDG, gets quoted. It is the usual PR routine. Just the other day, the same writer, John Fontana, neglected to put TomTom in the timeline of Microsoft’s attitude towards Linux and instead gave the impression that things were improving. Selectivity can achieve a lot when it comes to reviewed history. Many nations selectively remember their better moments from the past and don’t teach the embarrassments at schools. █
“That’s extortion and we should call it what it is. To say, as Ballmer did, that there is undisclosed balance sheet liability, that’s just extortion and we should refuse to get drawn into that game. On the other side, if Microsoft is concerned about its intellectual property, there is no one in the free software community that wants to violate anyone’s IP. Disclose the patents and we’ll fix the code. Alternatively, move on.”
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Summary: NASSCOM turns its back on digital autonomy and gives Microsoft a platform for nationwide lock-in
ONE of our readers, wallclimber, told us yesterday about a PR ‘fluff’ piece praising Bill Gates. It was published in the Indian press. These usually appear when Gates comes over for self-serving business trips, which he conveniently disguises as philanthropic escapades. Some years ago we saw him doing this in India (ruining a migration to GNU/Linux) and some months ago he did this in Spain.
According to the Economic Times (thanks to a pointer from another reader), Gates and NASSCOM had a little meeting of the minds where Chile-like Microsoft colonialism was envisioned.
Terming the unique identity project as a “great initiative”, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates Friday said the software giant wanted to partner with India in the ambitious project that will give a unique identity number to each of its citizens.
“Microsoft wants to be a part of the unique identification project,” Gates told a conference organised by the IT industry lobby, National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom).
Look at them bragging about it in public.
For information on the uglier side of NASSCOM, see its role in OOXML [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] and learn what it did to enable Microsoft to pay charities for political pressure [1, 2, 3]. It is all quite dodgy, to say the least.
If one turns attention to the blog of a Red Hat employee in India, the picture becomes a lot clearer. NASSCOM has become a true obstacle to Free software and open standards.
Now here is the interesting bit. The industry associations asked for more time so that they could go back to their members and ask for their opinions. And here, I am trying to break down the doors of NASSCOM to submit Red Hat’s opinion and what do I get? Dead silence. I hear that their deadline was June 7th and then extended to June 15th and I don’t know if there is a new cut-off date. But I do know that despite writing to NASSCOM, I haven’t heard back from them.
Whose interests does NASSCOM serve? It is also mentioned in the following recent posts from the same blog:
In his famous long complaint about Microsoft, Professor Deepak Phatak wrote about NASSCOM and BusinessWeek now names him one among 50 people who are most powerful in India. It ought to serve as a sign.█
“What Microsoft is doing is patently illegal. Think about it. If you want to build computers, you’ve got to ask Bill’s permission. If Bill wanted to triple the price on Windows, what would you do? You’d pay, you wouldn’t have any choice.”
–Oracle Corp Chairman Larry Ellison
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Summary: As Microsoft’s profits fall by about a third (again) we look at the role GNU/Linux plays
MAKING the same old tired arguments about the impact of GNU/Linux would be unnecessary, but in a nutshell, GNU/Linux turns operating systems into a commodity in devices, servers, desktops, supercomputers, and so on. This is a direct hit on Microsoft’s bread and butter, which get devalued. Yesterday we wrote about the figures reported by Microsoft as they came in and David Gerard did so with a wonderful satire where there are elements of truth, such as:
The world’s largest software maker said it had been affected by weakness in the global personal computer and server markets, particularly by having to sell Windows XP for $5 to keep netbooks from going entirely Linux.
According to real reports, none of Microsoft’s divisions saw a rise. Red Hat apparently takes the blame in this report from The Street (subscription required) and the following suggests that the impact of GNU/Linux should come first.
Microsoft profit is down 17%, and cited is long term threats that are materializing on it’s doorstep, Ubuntu Linux and Apple and the newly announced Google OS
Ubuntu Linux has been making serious inroads in the netbook market as a desktop of choice for many lower powered machines called netbooks, The Google OS is vaporware for now… but the threat exists.
More along the same lines:
Crashing PC sales send Microsoft profits tumbling
But there are other challenges abroad which the firm has dealt with rather less effectively – the effects of competition and the changing nature of the IT business to name but two. Its Windows operating system may still reign supreme numerically, but for how much longer? It faces two serious challenges, firstly from the various homemade flavours of Linux-based OS’s out there, and secondly from arch-rival Google, which is developing its own PC operating system to go head-to-head with Windows.
Linux is free to use already, and the Google system is likely to be so, too. So the $64m question is, how much longer will MS be able to go on selling very expensive OS’s and equally expensive applications when its key rivals will offer 80% of the functionality, and cost next to nothing?
Richard Waters, whose coverage tends to be strongly in favour of Microsoft, confessed that:
It is six years since Steve Ballmer issued a wake-up call to Microsoft’s developers, warning of the threat posed by the Linux operating system and other open source projects.
Now it comes to haunt them where it hurts the most: the bottom line. Market share and profitability are totally separate things, albeit not independent. It is all about margins.
According to one of our readers, Microsoft is what killed Sun. “No one survives a partnership with Microsoft,” he wrote. “We’ll see if Oracle can clean house now. █
Also see: Microsoft Q1 2009: The Things Microsoft Does Not Tell About Its Continued Decline
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Summary: While the FSF marks a triumph with GPLv3, Linus Torvalds shies away and people respond
ACCORDING TO this encouraging claim from Google’s Chris DiBona, adoption of the GPLv3 is very high. This was expected, but Microsoft front groups were among those attacking the GPLv3, for obvious reasons.
In July 2007, version 3 of the GNU General Public License barely accounted for 164 projects. A year later, the number had climbed past 2,000 total projects. Today, as announced by Google open-source programs office manager Chris DiBona, the number of open-source projects licensed under GPLv3 is at least 56,000.
As Kuhn puts it, “Even Chris DiBona w/ his secret data admits that GPLv3 is taking over fast (> 50%) and AGPLv3 is growing very very fast.”
We have also learned from an anonymous source that the new general policy at Novell is that all open source code developed in-house should be released as GPLv2 only (not GPLv3). This is not particularly surprising given Novell’s attitude towards the FSF, but it is nice to have it repeated by another party that says:
I just learned that Novell has a new general policy according to which all Open Source code developed by/for the company should be released as “GPLv2 ONLY”. This information is 100% good as it comes directly from the source. This policy interestingly coincides with that of Microsoft. If I learn more details I will let you know.
Linus Torvalds would not be happy about the news regarding GPLv3 adoption. In due time, it may pressure Linux as well to follow suit and evolve. Torvalds had some very harsh words for critics of Microsoft the other day, but rebuttals other than ours have already been published. Here is Jason’s:
On Linus and Free Software
I see the situation like this:
1. Oversimplifying a situation into a dilemma is a fallacy, but that won’t stop me here: If you want to picture situation in the FLOSS world as having two poles, with rms and “Freedom or Death” on one end, and Linus “Shut up and code” on the other, then that’s fine. The bottom line is Free Software is here to stay because of the GPL, so even the most pragmatic pragmatist needs to come to terms with that. The converse is true, as well, of course.
2. If you blindly and unequivocally side with Linus, you are just as much in error as if you blindly and unequivocally side with rms. Neither are gods, both are men trying to figure out the best way to do things.
In relation to the above, one reader writes to tell us: “Linus Torvalds made a provocative statement about Free Software recently. What does it mean?”
One reader says that Jason “debunks the myth that anti-mono folks are just zealots who can’t see reason.”
The same reader says that Jason “debunks the myth that anti-mono folks are just zealots who can’t see reason. Finally, he has this to address the issue of Torvalds’ remarks about “free software purists.”"
Here is another new criticism of Mono (in Italian) and Jason on what would change his mind on Microsoft, Mono, and Moonlight.
The short story is that it would take a lot for Microsoft and its associated software to gain trust. Another reader contributed the following thoughts in response to the interview with Linus. We append them below with suitable formatting.
Okay, a lot has been said on this blog, and there is some that I approve of, and a great deal that concerns me, and all of it brings up a lot of thoughts about my own feelings and loyalties. People are not the same, and have opinions that are all across the spectrum. But what concerns me most right now is how one person in particular seems to be painting a lot of us with the same brush, and more importantly, how there might be a kernel of truth to it.
Let me tell you about myself. I call the operating system GNU/Linux out of pride and respect for the GNU Project. I call it “free software”, because I believe it is exactly the freedom component of this operating system that makes it special. And I have a great deal of admiration for Richard Stallman and for what he has been able to accomplish.
All the same, I think that in the free software community the lines between advocacy and zealotry are often crossed too easily. I find many of the conclusions that Roy here jumps to hasty, and this concerns me. And this only serves to support many of the things that critics has been saying, and puts me in a position where I don’t know if I dislike what they have been saying because the statements are false or because I wish they weren’t true. But first let me put up a few points of agreement.
DEGREES OF SEXISM
Apparently, a lot of this controversy started due to a poorly performed joke that RMS made at a conference to GNOME and KDE developers. I think the details of this joke, and why it has been found offensive, have been nit-picked to death, so I won’t get into it here. But calling RMS sexist, or even continuing to insinuate that the man is sexist, I think really requires some perspective. In fact, lets begin a list starting from the most sexist thing you can do to least, and see where RMS’s joke belongs on this ladder.
1. Rape and physical abuse of women.
2. Instituting laws and rules that take away the rights of women.
3. Discrimination as an employer or leader of an organization.
5. Emotional abuse or tormenting of women.
6. Acting on sexist stereotypes.
7. Treating women as physical objects (e.g., of lust).
8. Mean-spirited jokes directed at women.
9. A poorly worded joke said at a conference that makes women feel uncomfortable.
10. Using the words “he” and “his” as a gender neutral pronoun.
So, where does RMS fall in this list? By a lot of the comments I’ve been hearing, I would get the impression that RMS has made an offense somewhere near the top of this list. But actually, I’d put RMS at level 9 of sexism.
Now, contrary to what Roy and others have said, I actually don’t scorn critics at all for speaking up about this. If they believe this was a serious lapse of etiquette, then it is their right to speak up about their feelings on the matter. And if women are offended by this because they are women, then I think they should also speak up. That’s fine, but so long as you see it as a violation of etiquette rather than something worse. Again, you need perspective.
At best, I would consider the event embarrassing for the free software community. But there are other messages out there that are saying that he free software community needs to move on, or that we should abandon free software principles and endorse the apathy of Linus Torvalds. Well, I disagree. But if I’m embarrassed by the event, why would I still admire this man?
DEGREES OF SUPPORTING THE CAUSE
To understand, let’s look at another list, this time in the reverse direction. We all support the free software movement, don’t we? If you don’t, then none of this should matter to you. But here are ways of supporting the free software community in order to least effective to most effective.
10. Chatting about “Linux” on IRC, twitter, blogs, and web forums.
9. Installing GNU/Linux on your own computer, and telling others about it.
8. Helping other people install GNU/Linux.
7. Writing fixing bugs and contributing documentation to the community.
6. Helping new users install and run free software on their computes.
5. Working on a minor free software application and contributing it to the pool.
4. Working on a major free software application and contributing it to the pool.
3. Working on a high priority application and contributing it to the pool.
2. Starting and leading a major free software desktop project for the purpose preventing the free software community depending on a proprietary toolkit being used by a competing project.
1. Quitting your job, starting the GNU Project, begin working on the basic free software needed for the development of an operating system, establish the legal foundation for free software by writing the licensing, start the Free Software Foundation to give the community a legal backbone, stay true to your principles, never compromise, never give in, and take abuse from members of the community for doing exactly what it takes to win.
Okay, so I’m biased. Number 1 is obviously RMS, but for the sake of the cause that *I* support, there is no one more deserving of that slot. But notice who Number 2 is? Come on, does anyone remember their history? That’s right, the leader of the dreaded Mono project was also the instigator of the GNOME project. In fact, even before GNOME, Miguel de Izaca was a GNU developer and contributed GNU software like the Midnight Commander. Then, while developing GNOME, he started a company developing and supporting free software. Now why would he have gone to all this hassle if Miguel didn’t care about free software principles? Come on, people! when a contradiction is staring at you square in the face, admit to it! Reason with it! Learn from it!
I don’t know de Izaca personally, but in all probability he likely *still* believes in free software principles. But, you ask, how is this possible when Mono is this huge threat to the free software community? First, remind yourself that Mono software is all distributed under free software licenses. Even now, working for Novel, Miguel is writing free software. Could it be, just maybe, that Miguel disagrees with the patent situation?
WHERE WE STAND
And that’s the thing, people have the *right* to disagree. But even more importantly, *consult your lawyers!* This is, fundamentally, a legal question, and one that people uneducated in law should stay out of. I trust the opinion of the SFLC and the FSF, they have been the legal backbone of the free software community from the beginning. And, I know that Canonical has consulted their lawyers, and Red Hat has consulted their lawyers, and so on and so forth. That’s what everyone should be doing.
But in certain respects, patent problems isn’t anything new to the free software community. They are a huge problem because the patent process rewards the person who first patented the idea at the expense of your average free software developer who doesn’t care about getting an intellectual monopoly over a particular technique. So the .NET framework isn’t anything new in that respect. If all else was equal, this would be just another case of crossing the bridge when we get there.
I’m as worried about Microsoft as the next GNU/Linux user. But *hatred* of them is simply foolish at this point. There is nothing personal about Microsoft. They are a company in search of profit, and they are using everything they can to achieve that goal. This makes companies remarkably predictable in this respect.
But there are a few things we know about Microsoft. We know that free software is a direct competitor to Microsoft software. We know that free software has already cost Microsoft an untold amount of money. We know that the GNU/Linux system commoditizes the products that Microsoft is trying to profit by. We know that the free software community is on their crosshairs.
It’s one thing to be paranoid, it’s quite another to *know* they are out to get you. But we shouldn’t be fanatical. We shouldn’t be afraid. We should just…*breathe*. We don’t have to fight Microsoft. All we need to do is to continue working with the GNU project, the Free Software Foundation, the GNOME and KDE projects, and all the other wonderful free software projects out there to create a more perfect system. Build a solid foundation and no one can break you.
KNOW WHO THE ENEMIES ARE
But what we don’t need here is this *false antagonism* that is being spread around, from blog to blog, dividing the community, creating animosity between people writing software under the same set of licenses. *We’re all on the same side here.* Aren’t we? The Mono team isn’t the enemy here. If Mono turns out being patent encumbered, then we will learn we just can’t use their software. The free software community has dealt with worse before. I’m not going to encourage the use of Mono myself, but if other people have different legal opinions, and believe they are safe from Microsoft, then I hope they’re right! But know who our enemies really are: Microsoft and proprietary software. *Not* free software developers! Even if you think their lawyers aren’t as smart as your lawyers
I know a while back there was this meme on Planet GNOME that said “I’m not afraid of people writing code” and because that meme spread widely that is pretty sad, really. It’s a consequence of this false antagonism that I’m talking about. Be honest. Be sincere. Be true about your feelings, and you won’t have any opinions worth spreading a meme about:
I’m afraid of software patents and Microsoft.
Any more thoughts would be welcome. █
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Summary: ECMA is done with Microsoft XPS, time to shove it down ISO’s throat
LAST YEAR we warned that Microsoft would attempt to repeat something like the OOXML fiasco, this time for a static document format. This was also alluded to in [1, 2, 3].
“It is Microsoft’s proprietary, inferior duplicate of PDF — just another proprietary format in Microsoft’s control.”Now that ECMA, a body that stamps virtually anything provided sufficient payments, is done with XPS (press release from this week), it is expected that Microsoft will try to ram it down ISO’s throat. It is Microsoft’s proprietary, inferior duplicate of PDF — just another proprietary format in Microsoft’s control. As David Gerard puts it, “Microsoft tries to push completely superfluous garbage through ECMA in preparation for ISO.”
Over at Wikipedia, the Microsoft proponents are pushing opinions of Microsoft as facts (see edit: “opinion was stated as fact”) and there are more corrections that annul the latest deeds of Ghettoblaster et al. It is worth keeping an eye on Microsoft's intervention in Wikipedia because of whisper campaigns. █
From the Campaign for Document Freedom
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