Summary: An accumulation of news about Oracle’s software patents offence
SOFTWARE PATENTS are a good thing for those who are already dominant in one area of computing or those who make a living suing/defending companies.
Vivek Wadhwa, a co-author of software patents who recently protested against software patents [1, 2], claims that startups — not mega-corporations which love patents for obvious reasons — should be considered a priority. Oracle and Microsoft too get a mention. From the opening paragraph:
The big companies’ executives argued that abolishing patents would hurt their ability to innovate and thus hamper the nation’s economic growth. (They believe that companies like theirs create the majority of jobs and innovations, and they claim that without patents they cannot defend their innovations.) I am not convinced that software patents give Google any advantage over Microsoft and Yahoo, or make IBM’s databases any better than Oracle’s. But I do know one thing for sure: it isn’t the big companies that create the jobs or the revolutionary technology innovations: it is startups. So if we need to pick sides, I vote for the startups.
This leads us to the main story (still) in the technology press, namely the Oracle lawsuit [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]. Here is another cartoon about it; there’s nothing funny about the lawsuit. “In this case,” Asay told me, “it’s not what I’d like (I hate biz via lawyers), but I do think it’s Oracle’s purpose”
I have attempted to defend Asay’s position on this, but others disagree with me. Our participant FurnaceBoy was exceptionally dissatisfied with Matt Asay’s take on it, calling him rude names in the process. “This smells,” he wrote, “as expected from Asay. This article is FUD…”
“Well, cult of Mono has already overtaken Ubuntu Forums which is biggest meeting place, so prospects are bleak.”
–gnufreexAnother reader wrestled with the question about Google’s relationship with Canonical (a relationship Asay did not know about until quite recently when I told him about it). “[A]pparently google isn’t as important to them (or to Asay) now,” said one of our readers. “He’s a lawyer,” I explained to him, to which the response was: “that explains so much… complete cluelessness on technical terms… the crApple cultism stemming from it… lack of morals and ethics… resulting hatred of free software”
“He even recommends .NET like de Icaza,” wrote gnufreex. “Well, Canonical is pushing .net/mono,” responded to him that previous person and gnufreex wrote that “Oracle should sue Novell over Mono. It is same as Dalvik. It is incompatible with Java and competes with it. Well, cult of Mono has already overtaken Ubuntu Forums which is biggest meeting place, so prospects are bleak. That’s why I hope Oracle destroys Mono.” The full IRC logs contain the rest of this discussion.
FurnaceBoy then asked, ‘is anybody going to let Asay state unchallenged that Oracle-v-Google “might actually give Microsoft a chance in mobile, not to mention make .Net an even better alternative for Java developers, as Novell developer Miguel de Icaza postulates.”‘
“[T]his is disgusting,” said FurnaceBoy in response to sentences like “No one would casually borrow SAP’s proprietary software and expect to get away with it. In similar manner, no one should cavalierly take open-source code without inquiring into its provenance, ownership, etc.”
Asay’s opinions are his own, but as Canonical’s COO these can be seen as somewhat troubling. Shuttleworth, who understands engineering a little better due to his background, is a lot harsher on Oracle:
“This will complicate the relationships Oracle has with a very important audience, which is the broader open source community,” Shuttleworth said. “It will significantly undermine their efforts to establish many of their major products like Java, Solaris and Oracle Unbreakable Linux, and in due course, I’ll imagine that they’ll quietly wish they hadn’t taken this approach.”
“I certainly respect their right to take whatever approach they want to take with what they consider to be their property, but I cannot see any way in which this ultimately ends in a constructive outcome for them,” he added.
Compare that to Asay’s original post:
In this particular case, Google almost certainly took care to protect itself against IP infringement, which makes the lawsuit no easy slam-dunk for Oracle. But even an open-source luminary like Bruce Perens is quick to point out that Google’s replacement of Java ME’s Swing widget toolkit and AWT graphical user interface class in favor of its own GUI may have violated its license. This wasn’t a big deal when Sun was the owner because, as Gosling noted, lawsuits weren’t in Sun’s genetic DNA.
But Oracle, not Sun, now owns Java, and it has a very different genetic makeup. Hence, this lawsuit, while not a sign of Armageddon for open source, serves as a clear warning to Google and everyone else to take the same level of care when using open source as when using proprietary software.
We first learned about this post via “agentsmith”, who wrote: “What does Matt Asay want to tell us with this post http://bit.ly/drE3JD ? I’m puzzled… what’s his point? At least Glyn Moody, in a recent article, suggests to FORK everything. Mr.Asay leaves in the air.”
Pogson calls Oracle “Software-Patent Troll”:
Here is one person who thinks that the threat is exaggerated although Red Hat’s Jan Wildeboer disagrees with him:
So what will be the outcome of the case? Baseless or not, Google hasn’t really (yet) clarified its stance and has only released a rather meek statement, expressing its disappointment at Oracle for attacking the open source Java community.
There’s also talk of this lawsuit killing Android. That’s just plain rubbish. If anything, Oracle wants Android to flourish. It would just heart it more if Android uses Java under Sun’s commercial license. And that’s what this lawsuit is about. License fees.
Leave the technical details for the engineers of the companies to fight over, in court. That is if this case ever escalates to that level.
One of the negative side effects of this whole action is that other Oracle projects lose some credence or legitimacy. OpenSolaris is already being made independent:
Illumos has garnered the support of some of the top minds in the industry; already the list of names of Solaris contributors and potential contributors that have already publicly committed to supporting this project is extensive. Many of the names are famous, people like Bryan Cantrill. Oracle’s actions and inaction have actually made this possible.
Brian writes about the Java situation and suggests making OpenOffice.org more independent too:
OpenOffice.org’s problem involves some history: when Sun ran the project, non-Sun developers often complained that Sun’s insistence copyright assignment discouraged external contributions, and that Sun’s (and now Oracle’s) tight control of the project inhibits developer initiative. So third-party developers already have a problem with Oracle, as more than one developer involved in OpenOffice.org has privately indicated to me in just the past few weeks.
Now, along comes Oracle with lawsuits and lock-downs that could adversely effect existing open source projects. Even if you can make an argument that right now, the OpenOffice.org community and project is doing just fine, just exactly how long would you expect this to be the case?
If I were an OpenOffice.org contributor, especially one not employed by Oracle, I would start to be very worried about the future of the project, at least until I heard Oracle publicly state what their plans were.
Novell’s Meeks has been trying to take control of OpenOffice.org and now he writes about copyrights in Java only to be heckled by Wildeboer who quotes Meeks as saying: “try not to fall in love [with a technology], if a single company owns, and controls it.”
Wildeboer evokes thoughts about the situation with Mono.
Gosling carries on commenting about the situation (“Quite the firestorm”) while prior art is being sought/collected to weaken Oracle’s case and help Java/Android.
Surprisingly enough, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols (SJVN) has been doing a lot of scare-mongering about Java/Oracle/other, especially in Twitter. Dana Blankenhorn makes it more personal:
After pretending to kindness for many months, Larry Ellison has stepped up to be that villain. (I’m certain this costume would fit him nicely, just $799.95 from Buycostumes.com.)
Wayne Rash also makes it somewhat personal:
While Oracle’s love of domination hasn’t made the news so much lately, there is certainly a long history of the company’s activities in this area. James Gosling, the creator of the Java programming language, pointed out in his blog that Ellison is frequently referred to as, “Larry, the Prince of Darkness” or “LPOD”. Gosling also notes in his blog that the Oracle’s CEO’s approach to industry competition is best described by a saying attributed to Genghis Kahn that is a favorite of Ellison’s: “It’s not enough that we win, all others must lose.”
Ellison has had a long history of suing other companies, hostile takeovers, and harsh treatment of employees. Over the years he’s had a long line of respected senior executives quit because they simply can’t take his aggressive style and hostile culture.
Matthew Aslett from the 451 Group cites many items including Matt Asay’s and Susan Linton summarises too:
No one is really surprised. Oracle has always been a proprietary company. But Oracle’s actions of Friday the 13th come only days after offering up a keynote at LinuxCon. This hits after last year’s promises of no major changes in Sun’s open source community assets. Those hoping for a new soft and fuzzy Oracle are no doubt sorely disappointed. Experts have already stated Oracle could turn out to be more of threat to Linux and Open Source than either Microsoft or SCO ever was.
We’ll continue to watch this and especially to report FUD. █
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Summary: The defective format (OOXML) which was derived from Microsoft Office is now being used by Microsoft to slam Apple’s products, after Apple helped OOXML
FOR at least a couple of years we covered very closely the corrupt ways in which Microsoft sought to label OOXML a “standard”. IBM’s Rob Weir was among the key characters fighting against this abuse.
“Ironically,” says Weir today, “when pushing for OOXML approval MS touted Apple software as proving that OOXML was not tied to Windows.” Watch this article which says that “Microsoft’s new Mac vs. PC site pretends Mac Office doesn’t exist” and quotes:
“If you use Apple’s productivity suite, sharing files with PC users can be tricky,” the site says. “Your documents might not look right and your spreadsheets might not calculate correctly.”
Red Hat’s Jan Wildeboer responds to Weir by saying/recycling the same thing and the FFII says: “Your source does not refer to #ooxml or a specific format but mentions inter-plattform interoperability / rendering challenges” (we covered this before, it's true).
Weir rectifies this by saying that the “[h]istory is that Microsoft used Apple as poster boy in their OOXML interop demos, but now they are dropping them in the river.” We wrote about this too and gnufreex says that “Mac might spoil your fun” but “Microsoft will spoil your fun for sure.” (this is said in reference to Microsoft’s claim that “Macs might spoil your fun”). █
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Photo by JD Lasica
Summary: Microsoft loses its power struggle in the Free/open source community and the OEM channel; One of our readers opines that Microsoft may have been responsible for Hurd’s departure from HP
MICROSOFT is going through some tough times (unless one minds the PR). Fortunately, Microsoft is collapsing as even attempts to “embrace and extend” the free/libre competition bite the dust [1, 2, 3] and Microsoft Gavin spins it too weakly for Microsoft. “Microsoft has reportedly refused to comment officially on the changes,” he writes and “[r]eading between the lines, it would seem that Microsoft’s push for Microsoft-versions of dynamic languages has fallen victim to overall budget cuts and changing priorities.”
Jason Perlow suggests breaking up the company and famous columnist Robert X. Cringley is having a go at Microsoft as well (he “seems to sort of use Mac, not sure that’s true,” says a reader of ours. “But the same points could be used for switching to Linux as well.”):
It’s kind of pathetic, really. Most of these arguments are premised on the notion that if you’ve already wasted most of your adult life using Windows, you’ll be more familiar with it than the Mac, so you might as well waste the rest of your adult life. Which is really the only reason why Microsoft continues to dominate desktop market share: It’s harder to switch than to stick with what you got, even if what you got sucks eggs.
Cringely (over at IDG/InfoWorld, so maybe not the original pseudonym’s owner, Mark Stephens) also says that “Microsoft needs more than a new slogan” and in IRC we’ve been having an interesting discussion with an employee of HP. We have already mentioned that at least one possible replacement for Hurd is from Microsoft. Two articles pointed this out and someone who claims to be from HP (nadege) told us: “Hurd was not a Microsoft Monkey. We should know the new CEO within 2 weeks”
HP's new software head was hired from Microsoft a few months ago, which means that he sits on the desk in executive meetings of HP. gnufreex writes: “I have theory about canning Hurd
“Yahoo was too independent company and they put Bartz. And SGI too. And HP of 90′.”
–gnufreexnadege says: “Not sure Hurd was fired due to Microsoft Retaliation : HP & Microsoft are partners, and HP promote a lot the Microsoft products”
“HP does promote Microsoft, but Microsoft doesn’t forgive competition,” gnufreex tells nadege. “Palm is competition”
nadege responds with: “HP promotes Microsoft due to a special relationship. However, HP is still an independent company. So I don’t think Microsoft will put its own CEO at HP”
“Yahoo was too independent company,” gnufreex tells nadege, “and they put Bartz. And SGI too. And HP of 90′. Read this http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=belluzzo&defid=3861632”
Someone seems to have coined the term “belluzzo” for Microsoft mole. To quote from Urban Dictionary:
Someone who acts against the interests of the organization he’s with, often in favor of some other organization he may be secretly working for instead – a mole.
Those acts – along with the reward from Microsfot – got him the nickname “the microsoft mole” (google “microsoft mole Belluzzo”) in those companies, and occaionally the term “a belluzzo” is used to describe someone who seems to be acting in the interest of a different company than the one he works for.
For details about Yahoo! entryism, see our Wiki. Earlier today we showed that Newsweek‘s outgoing Managing Editor now works for Microsoft (MSN). Bartz could be just another Belluzzo.
“Also note what they did to IBM’s OS/2, IBM was special partner too,” gnufreex adds. “When you are Microsoft competitor, you are on their hit list [...] That is exactly why they are firing him [...] I mean, not they are not firing him, they are setting the harassment case”
“HP has to be close to Microsoft,” nadege confesses, “otherwise Microsoft will favour Acer or Dell, and HP will lose its leadership. It’s tough to be a Microsoft Partner [...] And believe me : Customers (Companies and end users) want Microsoft products. They won’t accept any huge replacement of Windows.”
Chips B Malroy says: “they will on tablets [...] just look at the iPad”
nadege responds with: “Tablets, OK. Android will perform well” and gnufreex adds: “Yeah, and that is why Microsoft’s want Palm dead, and they need CEO who will kill it. [...] When I said they need CEO to kill Palm, I mean new HP CEO. Hurd didn’t want to kill his product just to please Microsoft, and now has to go. But then again, he is maybe just a rapist and deserves to be fired, and Microsoft has nothing to do with it”
IDG has a new article titled “Did HP Board Have Hidden Agenda in Removing Hurd?”
“New theories on why HP’s Mark Hurd was forced out,” says another headline.
HP has just been sued by a shareholder [1, 2] (shades of Yahoo!) and an aide is leaving along with Hurd. Well, guess who else is leaving? “Palm Prē design lead ejects from HP,” says this report from The Register.
Demi-disgraced HP chief exec Mark Hurd may have been the most-recent high-level exec to exit that company’s Palo Alto headquarters, but he’s not alone in his good-bye drive down US Highway 101.
Thanks to TechCrunch, we now learn that Peter Skillman, Palm’s now-former vice president of design — and the man who shepherded the design of the Palm Prē — has also bailed. An HP spokeswoman tells The Reg that his resignation came “about a month ago.”
Skillman’s departure is no small loss to HP. As the company expands beyond the security of the staid PC ‘n’ server ‘n’ printer markets and dips its toe into the turbulent ‘n’ trendy consumer products free-for-all, it’s going to need all the vision and design expertise it can get.
That cannot be good, can it? Hurd’s ‘Delilah’ says she is sorry and gnufreex writes: “I think Microsoft set him up [...] Because of his Linux related acquisitions [...] I think Microsoft want HP to kill Palm [...] some new Beluzzo might replace him [...] HP Enterpirse Software division (HP-UX and VMS) already got Microsoftie at helm”
The full IRC logs are available to see these claims in sequence. This theory says that they ‘pull a Bartz’ on HP, but evidence is not sufficient.
It was only weeks ago (before Hurd left, followed by the Palm Prē design lead) that HP had filed for a WebOS tablet trademark. It has real potential, but after Hurd officially dumped Vista 7 in favour of WebOS we now learn that Vista 7 is back, almost at the same time that HP put a Microsoft executive (Veghte) in charge of software at HP. Could HP be putting back Windows after dumping Vista 7 from “Slate”? How come?
Last week we showed that there was crime at HP and additional coverage includes:
i. HP settles kickback complaint
ii. HP Takes Charge to Settle DOJ Kickbacks Case
HP allegedly paid more than $3 million to systems integrators between 2001 and 2006 in exchange for favorable treatment on government contracts, according to DOJ filings.
iii. HP pays to end kickback probe
HP is taking a two cents per share charge to end a Department of Justice investigation into bribery allegations.
Here’s more (not about the fraud/kickbacks):
As the many questions around Mark Hurd’s departure continue to go unanswered, a key aide to the former CEO has also abruptly resigned this week.
The mystery deepens. Caprice Fimbres McIlvaine, formerly head of internal communications at Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and a top aide to ex-CEO Mark Hurd, has left the company, following her boss out the door three days after his departure. Her exit is significant because, according to two people with knowledge of her former role, McIlvaine was the key conduit in hiring Jodie Fisher, the actress-turned-corporate hostess/”marketing contractor” who later filed a sexual harassment suit against Hurd, setting in motion the chain of events that resulted in the CEO’s resignation on Aug. 6. McIlvaine resigned effective Aug. 9, HP confirmed Wednesday.
Why HP was wise to put director Marc Andreessen forward as the board’s spokesman on the Mark Hurd crisis.
The delightfully jarring aspect to Hewlett-Packard’s (HPQ) bombshell news and investor conference calls last Friday was the board member the venerable company put forward as its public face: Marc Andreessen, not so very long ago the enfant terrible of Silicon Valley.
Mark Hurd’s silly exit has little to do with HP’s real problems. As an executive there about a decade ago, I saw a company that was giving up its differentiating value in the name of operational savings, not realizing that by now the Golden Goose of creativity would find greener pastures. But surprisingly, the classic HP tradition of building a great place to do engineering that results in a flood of excellent creative products is being followed…
Back we go to Cringely (the original one) who wrote about “Stupid CEO Tricks” — a post wherein he mentioned Intel for showing that “to a certain extent crime does pay. ”
This week brought two other news events worthy of comment — Intel’s settlement with the Federal Trade Commission and Mark Hurd’s sudden departure as CEO from giant Hewlett-Packard.
The Intel story is almost as it is being presented in the trade and general press. Yes, Intel has promised in very specific ways to no longer be evil. No, Intel isn’t being made to give back the money it made as a result of being evil, so to a certain extent crime does pay. Of course some will say the money damages were in part covered by Intel’s recent $1.25 billion settlement with AMD, but the FTC also doesn’t generally impose fines. So if you happen to be guilty of anti-trust I guess it is better to be sued by the FTC than by the DoJ, which does impose fines.
Either way, Intel got away with something and the graphics chip makers in particular should be pissed.
We have already explained how Intel and Dell are teaching our kids that crime pays off. Here is more coverage about that, starting with older articles:
i. FTC gives itself an anti-trust extension as Intel deal eludes it
AN APPARENT FAILURE TO FIND agreement has led to the US Federal Trade Commission extending by two weeks the time it has to find a settlement with Intel.
ii. Red faced Dell fined for cooking the books
iii. Dell Settles with SEC for $100 Million
iv. Dell pays $100m to settle accounting fraud charges
v. Dell to Pay $100 Million to Settle SEC Case
vi. Dell proposes settlement in SEC investigation
vii. AMD gets an order from Dell
The relationship between Dell and AMD has been getting closer lately. Certainly in the days when Dell was an Intel-only shop this sort of deal would have been unthinkable.
viii. Chipmaker Intel settles FTC antitrust lawsuit
ix. FTC Settles Antitrust Complaint Against Intel
x. FTC settles anti-competition case with Intel
xi. FTC settles Intel lawsuit to ‘help consumers’
What is this case teaching our children? That a slap on the wrist is all one gets for abusing the market? Earlier today we showed that Apple too had been caught using kickbacks, so an Apple manager goes to jail (which is rare, they are usually just fined).
The original Cringely has one last post on the subject. “Too Big to Fail” is the title.
Everything about the Intel/FTC settlement screams of one thing — Microsoft. Redmond’s multi-year nightmare with the FTC, DoJ, and the attorneys-general of several dozen states wasn’t lost on Intel, which is a more rational company and doesn’t want a Microsoft-like anti-trust experience. Both companies are guilty and both are paying something for that guilt, but Intel clearly wants to avoid the decade of pain and distraction suffered by Microsoft.
Microsoft was paralyzed with the FTC breathing down its neck. Intel is not paralyzed.
Roughly $2 billion in payouts and Intel is a free bird — a rich free bird at that — having proved that crime does pay.
These settlements will effectively pay for themselves in two months at current Intel profit levels.
Had Microsoft been “paralyzed”, then its abuses would not carry on; but they do. █
“Fuck! It took you a year to figure that out!”
“That’s the dumbest fucking idea I’ve heard since I’ve been at Microsoft.”
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Summary: The attack on Android from multiple directions (Microsoft and Apple against phone makers, as well as Oracle against Google) shows why software patents are an abomination
IN the previous post about the “SCOracle” case [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] we attempted to find an explanation for Oracle harming its own asset, or at least looking to reduce fragmentation. Oracle has a history of opposing software patents (based on a statement pulled from many years ago) and its recently inherited product, ZFS, is still under attack by software patents.
One company which clearly suffers from software patents is eBay, which is under another attack this summer [1, 2]. Red Hat’s outspoken employee Jan Wildeboer says that “MSFT is cashing innovation tax (aka patent license money) for Android, now ORCL joins the scheme. And you still ask why #swpat [software patents] are wrong?”
Carlo Piana writes today: “I repeat that: #swpats must go away!” (it has always been his position on the face of it).
Dan Ravicher from the SFLC is still trying to invalidate patents on two genes which relate to breast cancer, not just software patents. From The Prior Art blog:
In a motion filed quietly in late June, Christopher Hansen of the American Civil Liberties Union and Daniel Ravicher claim that remarks made by Federal Circuit Chief Judge Randall Rader at a biotechnology industry event show he may have a biased view of the case in question, Association of Molecular Pathology et. al. v. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office et. al, and should not be one of the three judges to decide the appeal.
Questioning Rader’s objectivity is an unusual move that underscores just how high the stakes are in the case at issue, in which several doctors’ groups have joined the ACLU and PubPat in seeking to invalidate patents on two genes related to breast cancer that are owned by Utah-based Myriad Genetics–and, more broadly, to challenge the legality of the thousands of genetic patents already in existence.
We wrote about gene patents before [1, 2]. They too are a ludicrous (mis)use of patent law — an attempt to own nature, not just mathematics. █
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