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Microsoft Happy About Apple’s Invocation of Software Patents Against GNU/Linux

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, Kernel, Microsoft, Patents at 5:59 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Ballmer on patents

Summary: Mobile Linux proceeds from one victory to another while Apple and Microsoft pointlessly attack with software patents

EARLIER TODAY we wrote about news reports which suggested that Microsoft played some role in Apple's lawsuit against GNU/Linux (via Google/Android). Just like in the TomTom case, Apple and its supporters insisted that people should not perceive this as a case against Linux (Microsoft used the same lie to save face while doing the damage).

There is support for Apple’s action coming from Microsoft (Apple’s patent buddy since a long time ago), based on the following new report where Microsoft’s Brad Smith is quoted as saying about the HTC-Apple lawsuit: “the fact that there’s litigation in this area is not necessarily a bad thing.”

Here it is with some more context:

With several Windows Mobile devices named in Apple’s patent suit against HTC, you’d be forgiven for expecting Microsoft to have a few words of quiet support for their hardware partners. However it seems Microsoft are quite looking forward to a general battle; speaking at an IP convention last week, Brad Smith, the company’s general counsel and senior vice president told amassed lawyers that ”the fact that there’s litigation in this area is not necessarily a bad thing.”

Microsoft seems rather eager when it comes to Apple introducing software patents as game changers in phones, as means of harming Linux as a free platform.

Let’s recall the Apple-Nokia lawsuit (it is a two-way battle now [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]) which involved two — not one — proponents of software patents, one of which uses Symbian and Linux (Maemo/MeeGo). Apple accuses Nokia of using “legal alchemy” to hide infringements. IDG covers this, but it wrongly uses words like “IP” (it actually means to say patents) and “theft” (infringement does not constitute taking away from the original) right in the headline.

Nokia last week asked a federal judge to toss out Apple’s antitrust claims, saying the iPhone maker indulged in “legal alchemy” when it tried to divert attention from its “free-riding” of Nokia’s intellectual property.

The filing last Thursday was the latest salvo in a battle that began in October 2009 when Finnish handset maker Nokia sued Apple, saying the iPhone infringed on 10 of its patents and that the U.S. company was trying “to get a free ride on the back of Nokia’s innovation.” Nokia demanded royalties on all iPhones sold since Apple introduced the smartphone in June 2007.

Earlier today we also reiterated the fact that developers for platforms like Mac OS X and iPhone are merely being exploited [1, 2]. This is discussed further by Dana Blankenhorn right now:

“If Apple wants to be a real leader, it should be fostering innovation and competition, rather than acting as a jealous and arbitrary feudal lord.”

Is that a quote from Richard Stallman? From Steve Ballmer? Some dirty hippie blogger like myself?

Nope, it’s Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer Fred von Lohmann (right), responding to his own “get,” a copy of the iPhone Developer License Agreement, now posted on the EFF Web site.

Tim Bray, who used to be buying a lot of Apple gear, is now comparing Apple to “Evil” (that’s a strong word with somewhat religious connotation) as he joins the Android team [1, 2] (we mentioned this last night). Here is what he wrote:

The iPhone vision of the mobile Internet’s future omits controversy, sex, and freedom, but includes strict limits on who can know what and who can say what. It’s a sterile Disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers. The people who create the apps serve at the landlord’s pleasure and fear his anger.

Bray would be a good asset to Linux/Android/Google. He is the co-inventor of XML (which didn’t really need much ‘invention’). Bray is an opponent of software patents, so hopefully he’ll wake Google up.

The inventor of the cellphone has also just dumped the iPhone and moved to Android (Linux):

It turns out that Martin Cooper, the man who invented the cell phone, is the proud owner of a Motorola Droid! In a story which aired on C-SPAN, Martin discussed the politics of cellphones, as well as his current device.

According to some preliminary figures, Droid alone (that’s just one phone running Android) is beating iPhone’s record:

Did you know that it took the iPhone only 74 days to reach 1 million units sold? Oh you’ve heard that, huh? Well, did you know that the Motorola Droid moved more units in the same time frame? Yeah, you probably didn’t expect that. Frankly, neither did we. The latest report from Flurry shows the Droid pushing 1.05 million handsets in the first 74 days of release, eclipsing the number set by Apple.

No wonder Apple is so nervous. Microsoft is going nowhere too. Matt Asay, formerly a huge Apple fan, has just said the following things about Linux versus Apple (when asked whether “Linux [can] compete with Apple”):

Asay: I’m not sure this is the right question, as Linux already competes with and beats Apple in a huge array of devices. Linux spans everything from HPC to embedded devices and everything in between. Apple cannot compete with that. Could you build a supercomputer using Mac hardware? Sure, but you’d be mortgaging your house to do so and even then, the Mac would likely lose.

Of course, Apple doesn’t want to compete in such markets. It’s famously focused and opts to do a few things very well, like its iPhone and laptops.

Can Linux compete in these markets? Yes. Of course it can. Look at Android as perhaps the best example of effectively competing with Apple in mobile. Apparently Apple agrees with me, as its patent infringement suit against HTC is almost certainly a shot over Google’s bow, as The New York Times recently suggested. Apple is worried. And it should be.

The Source commends Asay for some of his remarks which he made since had joined Canonical.

As a side note, although I expressed strong reservations when Mr. Asay was named Canonical COO, I haven’t heard anything from him yet that I find objectionable.

To summarise, Apple’s action against GNU/Linux is supported by Microsoft while several notable people move away from Apple and directly to Linux. Among them: co-inventor of XML, inventor of the cellphone, and former Apple enthusiast and blogger Matt Asay.

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”

(Usually attributed to) Mahatma Gandhi

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A Single Comment

  1. your_friend said,

    March 17, 2010 at 12:29 am


    The Microsoft Software Patent Haiku

    One and one is ten
    Microsoft Software Patent
    money and nonsense

    Copyright by your friend, please share.

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