Summary: Roundup of news, as indicated above
Customer-hostile patents are a recurring theme that we find at Apple and Microsoft. Here is Microsoft’s latest monopoly on limitation mechanisms.
Microsoft patent looks to put a time limit on software licenses
That raises the possibility of Microsoft charging by the hour, day or month. That’s already a component of many software-as-as-service business models. But the Microsoft patent — dubbed “Time-Based Licenses” — provides more detail on where things may be headed when it comes to the future of software purchasing.
This is the type of behaviour that Free software is trying to prevent. But meanwhile, in Europe, Microsoft not only advances anti-Free software laws in the form of software patents; recently we saw Microsoft lobbying in Ireland for the Lisbon treaty [1, 2].
Oh well, there’s a timely little gem in the news, which puts at great doubt the integrity of the authorities over there. From EurActiv:
Irish government on brink of collapse
The Irish government led by Brian Cowen, which last week succeeded in ratifying the EU’s Lisbon Treaty in a second referendum, could collapse in the coming days following an expenses scandal which has rocked the beleaguered ruling coalition.
Just days after receiving warm congratulations from European leaders for ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, Taoiseach Brian Cowen could find himself facing a general election should his coalition partners, the Irish Greens, this weekend decide to abandon Cowen’s Fianna Fáil.
“[B]ecause of an expenses scandal,” claims Glyn Moody. Sounds like a good atmosphere for gentle bribes, too. Microsoft’s relationship with the Irish government is a subject that we covered here before [1, 2].
Glyn Moody also wrote about the latest Eolas development, namely a patent case which initially targeted just Microsoft [1, 2]. From 2003, Moody extracts grounds for invalidation and proceeds to claiming that the case further justifies abolishment of software patents.
Thanks, Eolas, For Making the Flaws So Patent
There are two huge problems with the patent system – especially the US patent system. The first is patent trolls – those who patent ideas without any intention of turning them into products, but purely with an eye to extracting money from companies that do make stuff. The second concerns companies that might well intend to create a product, but which are granted patents for ideas inappropriately – because they are not new or are blindingly obvious.
This ought to add weight to the already-growing opposition to software patents in the United States [1, 2]. Simon Phipps from Sun Microsystems writes:
Another “friend of the court” filing in the US Supreme Court in the reconsideration of the case law that makes software patents viable in the US. In this filing, the Free Software Foundation argues that “The Country Needs and Relies on FOSS”. Let’s hope the good sense in these filing together with a very recent “visual aid” of the harm software patents can do sways the court to uphold the rejection of the finding in re Bilski.
Here is TechDirt’s take on the Eolas case and here is a rant from SJVN:
Opinion: Eolas might just sue every last, lousy company in creation
Eolas, like other patent trolls, has taken an obvious idea, somehow managed to con the U.S. PTO (Patent and Trademark Office) into giving it a patent, and is now suing Adobe Systems, Google, Yahoo, Apple, eBay and Amazon.com. Oh, and it’s also suing Blockbuster, Frito-Lay, Office Depot, Sun, Playboy. (Playboy!?) and 10 other companies.
This hopefully shows how silly the patent system has become. with genome monopolies and monopolies on human life [1, 2] (see some crazy patent comedy), it is disappointing to see Nobel prizes being awarded to the culprits. Even Skype was recently under threat of survival due to software patents. They can breathe out in relief now.
Skype is claiming a victory in one of the many IP suits that are plaguing the P2P phone company at the moment.
Robert Miller, Skype’s general counsel, said in a blog post the other day that the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had ruled in favour of Skype and sort-of-ex-parent eBay, over a brace of patents asserted by Peer Communications Group.
If this is “innovation”, then it is not a positive thing. █
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Summary: Microsoft talks about the future rather than the present as decent products fail to come out
MICROSOFT has decided to postpone quite a few releases in the past week or two [1, 2]. Here is another new delay:
Microsoft delays Forefront business security client six months
Microsoft’s Forefront team is again delaying a piece of its next-generation “Stirling” suite of products.
This may be just a delay, but Microsoft is also killing a product almost every week or two. At the request of a reader, we have created this new list of dead products and services from Microsoft.
Microsoft loves blaming the overly-hyped Vista 7 for current delays while also announcing vapourware. Regarding the latest vapourware (128-bit pipe dream), Carla had this to say and Mary Jo Foley seems to be getting cold feet now that Steve Ballmer admits Vista 7 won't sell.
Ballmer: Testers didn’t ring Vista warning bells; Could the same happen with Windows 7
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has done his best over the past year-plus to try to dampen expectations around Windows 7. He’s doing it again this week during his pre-launch European tour, telling press, analysts and others there that he doesn’t expect Windows 7 to provide a sudden and miraculous boost to the PC market.
But I’m more intrigued by a related comment Ballmer made, as I’ve thought about this very scenario myself in recent months. Ballmer pointed to Vista as an example that tester feedback may not always be the best measure of the success of a new operating system release. From an October 7 Bloomberg story:
“’The test feedback (on Windows 7) has been good, but the test feedback on Vista was good,’ Ballmer, 53, said in an interview last week. ‘I am optimistic, but the proof will be in the pudding.’”
It feels like a long time ago when testers were assessing the many Longhorn/Vista builds that Microsoft issued both before and after the “reset” in 2004. Before the reset, Microsoft officials heard from testers that there were some deep-seated problems with its next planned version of Windows. As a result, the Windows team went back to the drawing board and rejiggered it. Then there were lots more builds. And finally, in the fall of 2006, Microsoft released Vista to manufacturing.
Exactly. As we’ve repeated endlessly for almost a year, everything about Vista 7 is eerily similar to Windows Vista’s timeline. Average consumers with average computers have not tried Vista 7 yet. The hype is artificial and often paid for. █
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Summary: The European Commission insists on not talking about or revealing the influence of Microsoft’s panel provocateurs
EARLIER TODAY and also yesterday we wrote about Free software discrimination at the European Commission (whether this was voluntary or not is a separate issue). The Commission’s defence of Free software foes is rather stunning and we wrote about this in:
- European Open Source Software Workgroup a Total Scam: Hijacked and Subverted by Microsoft et al
- Microsoft’s AstroTurfing, Twitter, Waggener Edstrom, and Jonathan Zuck
- Does the European Commission Harbour a Destruction of Free/Open Source Software Workgroup?
- The Illusion of Transparency at the European Parliament/Commission (on Microsoft)
- 2 Months and No Disclosure from the European Parliament
- After 3 Months, Europe Lets Microsoft-Influenced EU Panel be Seen
- Formal Complaint Against European Commission for Harbouring Microsoft Lobbyists
- ‘European’ Software Strategy Published, Written by Lobbyists and Multinationals
- Microsoft Uses Inside Influence to Grab Control, Redefine “Open Source”
- With Friends Like These, Who Needs Microsoft?
Here is the latest response that I received an hour ago. It helps not at all.
Dear Mr. Schestowitz,
In the course of 2007 and 2008 a number of organisations made proposals to Commissioner Reding on the formulation of a strategy for software producers in Europe. In 2009 an attempt was made to synthesise the suggestions and build a single report.
To achieve this, the European Commission invited a broad spectrum of experts mostly from the software industry and the FLOSS community to participate in a number of working groups each treating a subject identified as being important for the European Software Industry. The result of the working groups are documented in a report from each of the working groups. These reports can also be found here http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/ict/ssai/europeansoftwarestrategy-documents_en.html#contributions. The content of the reports are agreed among the participants including the participants from the Floss community, unless stated otherwise.
Please note that these documents in no way form a software strategy nor a position of the European Commission. The process so far has simply sought to identify subjects which could form elements of a strategy and to discover which of them raised issues among participants with divergent interests. There is, as yet, no strategy. If one is eventually formulated it will be the subject of broad consultation as usual.
Please note that the working group reports are documents created and edited by the participants and not by the European Commission. The European Commission holds only the final versions agreed by the participants and these have already been sent to you.
Previous draft versions and the individual contributions may be in the possession of the participants. We are aware of the document which has been published on the Internet (http://wikileaks.org/wiki/European_Commission_OSS_Strategy_Draft%2C_Mar_2009), but we cannot comment on the document or its authenticity. As regards your interest in SAP’s position, SAP has contributed with the following document http://www.europeansoftware.org/documents/SAP_WP_FutureInternet.pdf and has asked to have a number of notes to be included in the reports to clarify their position; these are all clearly marked in the reports already sent to you.
The reports will be used as input, together with many other inputs (see http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/ict/ssai/europeansoftwarestrategy_en.html), to investigate if any initiatives are needed from the European Commission to strengthen the European Software Industry.
The process has been as transparent as possible and the European Commission is also fully aware of the interests represented by the participants. The synthesis report is published, the working group reports contributing to it are published and the original contributions from interested parties are published. All the parties contributing to reports are listed on the reports.
Please note that comments on the reports can be given using the following form http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/ict/ssai/europeansoftwarestrategy-documents_en.html#feedback and that any contribution describing how the software production in Europe can be strengthened is very welcome.
[Anonymised - European Commission]
Lacking context, the above may mean too little. They are completely ignoring the concern expressed about lobbyists writing this report and also refusing — as they have done for almost half a year — to reveal the contributions of each participant, including Microsoft lobbyists who distorted a panel about Free/Open Source software. █
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Summary: Vista 7 has new security flaws in it and Microsoft reveals “largest-ever patch Tuesday”
THE reality behind Vista 7 includes some harsh facts about insecurities. Vista 7 has had many severe security flaws so far, and it’s not even released yet. See for instance:
This great number of vulnerabilities shatters the Microsoft myth that its operating system’s market share (on the desktop) is the cause of all problems. Upon product launch, Vista 7 will be dangerous ‘out of the box’.
Slashdot’s headline states that “Microsoft Plans Largest-Ever Patch Tuesday” and the referenced article makes it clear that Vista 7 is also affected.
Unlucky 13 sets record as biggest-ever patch day, includes first-ever for Windows 7 RTM
The company will ship a total of 13 updates next week, eight of them pegged “critical,” the highest threat ranking in its four-step scoring system, beating the previous record of 12 updates shipped in February 2007 and again in October 2008.
That’s another one for the list of Vista 7 security flaws. But it’s only the tip of the iceberg. “[G]reat explanation on Microsoft.com of the terrible cost of Windows’ susceptibility to viruses,” writes Glyn Moody, who has just found this embarrassing page which would be a valuable reference to claims that Windows flaws cost the economy trillions of dollars. █
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Summary: The Linux Foundation has officially begun embracing Free video; The BBC dumps Real
ABOUT A day ago, the Linux Foundation took its big step forward and uploaded videos from LPC, not before Ogg versions were made available. We linked to the news a few hours ago, but given the value of what the Linux Foundation has done this time around, it’s worth praising in a separate post. Here for example is the talk from Linus Torvalds — a first among many that we shall post daily.
In other important news, last year we shared this video which shows why BBC media is so Windows oriented. Well, the BBC is now getting rid of RealPlayer options, so it is time to pressure for Ogg or Dirac support from the Beeb.
When streaming services are evaluated against these measures, we take into account where different formats might need to be implemented, evolved or deprecated.
Well, now is the time to adopt the freest format of all. It is neither Windows nor Real, that’s for sure. █
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Summary: Freedom of expression met by freedom of suppression and the Gartner Group carries on setting the agenda
THE FSF‘s latest motion is one that we wrote about yesterday. To quote the official press release:
The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today launched the next stage of its “Windows 7 Sins” campaign at http://windows7sins.org, making the case against Microsoft and proprietary software by writing to 500 leaders of the most influential nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) worldwide, asking them to make the switch to freedom-respecting free software, and to help foster awareness of the ethical importance of computer user freedom.
As usual, resistance to the ethical goals mentioned above mostly comes from the Microsoft crowd. We saw this when the campaign was first launched and gave examples in posts on the subject, e.g.:
The FSF speaks about Microsoft’s crimes (moral of technical) almost exclusively, yet opposition to the FSF never comes directly from Microsoft. This is the expected behaviour and a known Microsoft "shill", Andrew Thomas, is the latest to be mocking the FSF with a daemonising photo and rude headline.
Speaking of “shills”, Roughly Drafted Magazine has this brilliant new exposé of the Gartner Group. It presents evidence (some of which extracted from Boycott Novell) and concludes as follows:
Had Gartner not served as Microsoft’s mouthpiece in badmouthing OS/2, NCs, Macs, and everything open source-related (or just not Microsoft-related) to enterprise users all these years, perhaps the company’s analysts wouldn’t be blown away by “technological advances” that happen every year. Of course, had it not done all that damage, the company wouldn’t have ever got all those millions of shill dollars for keeping Microsoft’s terrible products in the headlines.
The above article was published in response to Gartner on Android. In another new article, the same site explains the obvious — that Windows Mobile is a dead end.
This strategy pitted Android against Microsoft’s Windows Mobile in a defensive play to prevent Microsoft from leveraging its smartphone hardware partnerships to block Google’s entry into the mobile search and ads business. Insiders have referred to Android as “Danger 2.0,” as the Android project builds upon Danger’s general architecture of using a Unix-like kernel (Android uses Linux) with a Java-like application runtime (Android’s Dalvik virtual machine).
Overall, this is an exclusive and fascinating analysis. █
More on the Gartner Group:
“David Smith commented that Gartner will not bash MS if MS chooses to slip Vista.”
–Jamin Spilzer, Microsoft
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Summary: Analysis of the ways in which Microsoft rules out Free software, hoping that by means of illusion it will simply go away
WE were not pleased with the European Commission’s decision regarding Microsoft. It is all being done in a rush, and thus it’s done poorly. It’s very typical. Glyn Moody, who is familiar with these matters, has gotten around to looking at the details and he comments on the fact that Microsoft had the Commission approve discrimination of Free software.
Now, the phrase “compatible with Open Source Licenses” is pretty vague. Does that include the GNU GPL, for instance? If it doesn’t, it’s a weak undertaking, but if it does, it could be significant. Similarly, what exactly “nominal upfront fee” means, and whether it is per project and truly negligible, are questions that will need to be answered before that undertaking can be judged.
As Groklaw correctly pointed out, what are these payments for anyway? Software patents are illegal in Europe. The Commission is being bamboozled here, again.
Moody also points out that Microsoft is lying about the growing market share of Free software.
Er, what, like the browser sector, where Firefox now has nearly 24% market share worldwide, and Microsoft’s share is decreasing? Or Apache’s 54% in the Web server world, where Microsoft’s share is decreasing? Or GNU/Linux’s 88% market share of the top 500 supercomputers in the world, where Microsoft’s share is static?
It is typical for Microsoft to do this. By belittling the impact of Free software, Microsoft hopes that it will convince developers, manufacturers and shops to steer away from supporting GNU/Linux, for example. In the case of the Commission, if Microsoft can convince regulators that Free software is a negligible factor, then a settlement can rule out any degree of season. █
“It’s nice for you to admit your guys are running scared [of Free software]. They should be.”
–The sum of Microsoft’s fears
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Summary: Microsoft has apparently just bought itself a federal investigation against mainframes running GNU/Linux
FOR those who are new to the whole mainframe/T3 saga, necessary reading probably includes:
IBM committed the atrocious sin which is using GNU/Linux rather than Windows. It turns out now that Microsoft got its way.
The US Department of Justice has opened an investigation into IBM’s mainframe business at the instigation of the CCIA.
“Microsoft’s complaints bearing fruit, at last,” writes the founder of the FSFE (quoting Glyn Moody). He also points out the impact of lobbying, where Microsoft is a clear leader.
Let’s not forget who has tremendous control [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8] over the US DOJ, which opened the investigation above. █
“Microsoft is pulling out every favor it’s got … It has a very close relationship with DOJ and the White House, and all of that pressure is being brought to bear.”
–Knowledgeable tech industry source [via]
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