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11.04.10

Microsoft’s Last Years: A Troll and the Software Patents Mafia

Posted in FUD, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents, SCO at 8:25 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“First They Ignore You, Then They Ridicule You, Then They Fight You.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Portrait of Gandhi

Summary: How Microsoft is fighting GNU/Linux in the last battle phase and how to avert this fight until Microsoft dries up

MICROSOFT NEVER WON much glory. Since its very early days, when Bill Gates (by his own admission) pulled code out of garbage cans to make what we now know as Microsoft Corporation, Micro-soft was known as a bully, an unethical thug, a backstabber, a ripoff artist, and an merciless abuser. Gary Clow, one of the early victims of Microsoft’s despicable business practices, said that “a lot of people make that analogy that competing with Bill Gates is like playing hardball. I’d say it’s more like a knife fight.”

Not much has changed since then. Less than a year ago Sun’s CEO told the world that Gates personally extorted him using software patents (while outwardly pretending to do charity, which is controversial for other reasons). Let’s face it; Microsoft’s culture never put emphasis on ethics. Disregard for the law (and government entryism) is arguably Microsoft’s ‘secret sauce’. For PR purposes they put out some “principles” or “pillars” or whatever, but when it comes to practice, Microsoft still perceives itself as a “chosen one” whose domination of desktop computing is a God-given right that it can maintain using whatever new law (or illegal deal) it can get. Its aggressive lobbying for software patents shows this, its rigging of ballots shows this (e.g. OOXML), and even its illegal government deals (which Google now sues over) show this. Microsoft is not just a company, it is a malicious movement that systematically attacks critics and competitors with the eternal objective of world domination in mind.

“Disregard for the law (and government entryism) is arguably Microsoft’s ‘secret sauce’.”For many years Microsoft simply ignored GNU/Linux, just not internally. That was in the 90s. In the previous decade Microsoft launched disinformation campaigns, famously the “Get the Facts” series and the SCO lawsuit it funded (which since 2003 allowed Microsoft to falsely and hypocritically claim Linux was a ripoff). A few years ago Microsoft started to popularise the belief that GNU/Linux was infringing Microsoft software patents (without ever naming any) and last year Microsoft started suing companies for shipping Linux. That’s the third stage of the attack on Linux, which comprises an actual “fight”, not just a snub or a slur. It is important to recognise this because since 2006 Techrights has been solely or at least primarily focused on the subject of software patents, which Apple and Oracle only recently started to use like Microsoft does (offensively, against Linux-based platforms). Everyone is suing everyone else (new chart) in lucrative and fast-growing market segments where GNU and Linux fit exceptionally well and cannot be beaten on price.

Microsoft has little or no dignity left. With increasing debt, Microsoft has little money left, as well (things do not add up). What Microsoft has left in terms of budget (losing projects get axed to decease the bleeding) it spends on patent lawyers who help the company amass more software patents. Perhaps Microsoft is thinking that it can become a licensing company (patent troll) rather than a software company. Here is this week’s news about Microsoft patenting the “record” button. Yes, it’s unbelievable:

You have to appreciate that Microsoft pays attention to what may be rather trivial products and slaps a patent on them. In this latest wave of approved patents – the U.S. Patent and Trademark office granted 35 Microsoft patents to Microsoft today – is the right to claim the ‘record’ button.

In case you have no idea what a record button really is, Microsoft tells us that “a record button [is a device] that facilitates audiovisual input into a computer system without requiring manual interaction (direct manipulation interaction) with software. Additionally, “the record button may be grouped with transport controls, a standalone button, or grouped with other controls. The record button may be actuated with different types of actuation techniques, each of which may correspond to a different audio and/or video operating mode, which may be user configurable. A record light may be provided to notify the user of the current recording mode via variable colors and/or flash patterns. The record button can work in conjunction with a camera button and with manual software switching of recording modes.”

Microsoft is not stockpiling such nonsense patents just to put them on the shelves for vanity. A week or so ago, the press in Taiwan reported that Microsoft used such patents for extortion, demanding that companies in Taiwan and elsewhere pay Microsoft for Android (based on Linux) and Chrome OS (based on Linux and GNU). It’s patent extortion and based on this new report, one has to wonder if Microsoft is also extorting Dell:

A Google-branded Chrome OS notebook will be launched by Inventec, with Acer and Hewlett-Packard following suit thereafter, according to a report.

The DigiTimes report puts the launch date of the Inventec notebook in November, with Acer and HP launching theirs a month later, in December.

Interestingly, the report did not cite Dell, which has said it would explore a Chrome OS device alongside Windows.

DigiTimes reported that Microsoft goes after companies which plan to preinstall Chrome OS. Microsoft demands payments for programs it wrote not a single line of code for. As “samlinux” put it some minutes ago in our IRC channels, “[M]icrosoft getting very aggressive with the oems too, ship our products or we will sue you. asus, acer, htc.. i wonder what things those chinese say behind microsofts back?”

Yes, tell that to Mono and Moonlight enthusiasts who appear not to comprehend what they are doing. They help create programs such as Pinta (from a Novell employee [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]), which are obviously a patent problem because Microsoft defined limitations in its "Community Promise" and Mono has not yet delivered an (strictly) ECMA-compliant version of Mono. Pinta 0.5 is out and it’s trying to compete with the likes of the GIMP. Susan reviewed this release and she was shrewd enough to inform the readers about the Mono dependency (many other writers neglect to do so):

Pinta exists for that group of casual users. It’s modeled after Paint.net, built with GTK#, and depends upon Mono. Pinta loses some user interest with that last ingredient, but for many it’s not an issue.

Now that Microsoft is suing, extorting and limiting GNU/Linux bundles using software patents, why would anyone want to promote Microsoft’s APIs that are clearly a patent problem? Just because Microsoft MVP de Icaza says it’s the right thing to do (he is still spewing Java FUD in Twitter this week) does not mean he is right. Look how wrong he was about Silverlight. He tries to help Microsoft.

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6 Comments

  1. twitter said,

    November 4, 2010 at 9:05 am

    Gravatar

    Groklaw noted the defeat of an Acacia attack on Novel and Red Hat yesterday. This is significant because it was the first patent lawsuit filed against gnu/linux users and because Novel was a target. The suit was filed in 2007, right after Steve Balmer said such a thing would happen and BN collected other evidence that Acacia Research is a Microsoft proxy company. That Novel was targeted by a proxy proves that no peace of mind is acquired by cooperating with Microsoft. The best option is to fight the extortion.

    twitter Reply:

    I have updated my Microsoft patent extortion timeline with two Acacia Research suits.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    The best option is to fight the extortion.

    Or to fight the root cause, namely software patents. There is brilliant momentum building behind elimination of some — if not most — patents. A few days ago we cited an article about gene patents. The New York Times said that the US government is now intervening and opposing those patents and even mighty Nature has just published “US government wants limits on gene patents”:

    In a surprising legal brief filed late last week, the US Department of Justice suggested that the government’s long-standing support of the controversial practice of patenting genes might be coming to an end.

    The brief, filed on Friday in a landmark gene-patent lawsuit, argues that simply identifying an important DNA sequence within a genome is not enough to justify a patent. Instead, such a discovery is akin to finding coal and removing it from the earth, or separating cotton fibres from cotton seeds, lawyers for the US government wrote.

    Let’s keep up the good fight against bad patent monopolies. Progress is being made.

    twitter Reply:

    PJ Follows the money in her news clips:

    One key to Acacia’s newfound success, which far surpassed Wall Street analysts’ expectations: licensing large corporate patent portfolios. …The biggest driver behind Acacia’s third quarter windfall was when it licensed that Access portfolio to Microsoft-a huge licensing deal that didn’t even require the filing of a lawsuit. (The sum is confidential, but an analyst with Craig Hallum Capital Group estimates that the deal involved Microsoft paying around $37 million.)

    [PJ: So first Microsoft funded SCO. Now it's funding Acacia. Acacia subsidiary IP Innovation sued Red Hat and Novell for patent infringement. It lost, but it cost the companies plenty to defend. Get the picture? Here are the complete trial transcripts, so you can see how utterly ridiculous the claims were. The jury ruled nothing was infringed and the patents asserted were not valid. And now we know the rest of the story.] – Joe Mullin, Law.com

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, I covered it about a week ago, coming to the same conclusion.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    And ACCESS patents were used.

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