03.07.12

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Apple Wants ‘Linux Tax’, OIN Still Unable to Do Much

Posted in Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Patents at 2:20 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: An expansion of scope at the OIN does not help resolve the real problems GNU/Linux and Free software at large are having

THERE IS an update on patents coming soon. According to Wildeboer from Red Hat, “Apple also wants 5-15 US$ per Android device. Just as Microsoft.” As the OIN’s CEO put it to me over the phone, Apple and Microsoft (he calls them the “duopoly”) are trying to make Android “uneconomic”, to use his term that he repeated a lot for over an hour. I recently got an invitation to meet him in London, but I had to decline because it’s far from where I live (Manchester), so instead I suggested an E-mail interview. They agreed, but when I asked questions such as how the OIN would deal with patent trolls (I named MOSAID) they seemed to have changed their mind about the interview. The matter of fact is, the OIN is flawed. It works for IBM perhaps, but not for us independent developers who are not part of a company weighing at hundreds of thousands of full-time employees (and tens of thousands of patents, which is not so impressive given the headcount).

A month ago the OIN boasted “Strong 2011 Licensing Performance” (whatever that practically means, notice the term “licensing”) and we keep wondering, what will they do about patent trolls? Microsoft is already operating through MOSAID. We foresaw this and asked the OIN about MOSAID more than a month ago. What about the Twin Peaks lawsuit against Red Hat (about s fortnight ago)? What can the OIN do? Nothing. Or not much.

Nevertheless, the OIN is addressing one of the other criticisms of its strategy. It expands its scope of coverage even further to more Free software projects such as

KVM, Git, OpenJDK, and WebKit. Mobile Linux distributions like Android, MeeGo, and webOS will also soon be expressly protected.

We asked about those Linux distributions over a month ago, but the OIN returned no response. The secrecy at the OIN needs to stop. And the hard questions — in particular the one about patent trolls — need to be tackled. Until then, destroying all software patents — not subscribing to the OIN — is the right solution. We find it interesting that OIN will cover WebKit, which is in part being developed by Apple — the cult which is suing Android/Linux and demands a tax or products embargo. OpenJDK is also covered despite the fact that an OIN member, Oracle, is suing a over Dalvik. Samba’s lawyer once said that the only solution is abolition and he was right. The OIN neither pursues nor advocates abolition; its business model and very existence depends on patents. Sites like Groklaw, which is led by a law professor, present a similar point of view, which can be problematic at times (patents being essential to one’s living). My intention is not to disparage anyone but merely to explain the conflict of interests and the point of view of companies like Intel and IBM (and their de facto front groups).

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7 Comments

  1. mcinsand said,

    March 7, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Gravatar

    This must be a tough position for the duopoly. They really can’t do without FOSS, or they wouldn’t have any new features to copy and market. Then again, how could they ever compete with the leader in innovation and features. Barriers are their only chance, whether it’s litigous barriers or informational barriers (why would the masses pay more for less, otherwise?). Once more, we in the US need to write our senators and congressmen to have software patents officially declared off-limits. The Supreme Court went as far as they could with Bilski. The SC doesn’t make the law; it can only interpret. If we don’t like an interpretation, then we, the citizens, have to write to have the legislative branch clarify the language. Reddit showed that we can have an impact over the better-financed voices.

    If we do write in enough numbers, we can make a difference. Granted, MS will probably go away, and Apple will be only limited to selling to the remaining whose egos are satisfied by paying overpriced for underchoiced, but Apple will still survive. PT Barnum hasn’t been wrong yet. In the end, the rest will benefit by having leading edge features without being restricted by walled gardens.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    What did PT Barnum say? Do you have links?

    mcinsand Reply:

    Well that was a learning experience. For as long as I can remember, I have heard the phrase ‘a sucker born every minute’ as attributed to PT Barnum. After looking for a reference to your question, though, I found several references claiming that Mr. Barnum didn’t say it. Here’s one: http://www.historybuff.com/library/refbarnum.html

    All the same, that Macs sell at all shows that the principal holds, no matter who said it.

    mcinsand Reply:

    Doh! I tried to correct my misspelling of principle, but was too late. *blush*

    Michael Reply:

    Macs sell well because they offer an excellent user experience. I know this is a hard thing for many in the OSS community to get, esp. those who follow Stallman as opposed to Shuttleworth and the like, but user experience matters a lot. In fact, the experience the user gets is the only thing that matters – when you define that “experience” in very broad terms.

    Apple has earned its highest user satisfaction ratings. Desktop Linux is clearly improving and I hope it continues to (how could it not). Many of the changes in Ubuntu, for example, are being done because of how the KDE and Gnome teams have dropped the ball on making the software made for each system less inconsistent. Would be much better to come from that level than to have Ubuntu have to sorta kludge solutions… and the fact that the solutions have to be kludged hurts the user experience.

    This who myth by some in the OSS community about Apple being overpriced is just silly… if they were too expensive for what they offered they would not sell as well as they do. Cheaper alternatives would make that impossible. The complaint is merely sour grapes. Again, I am happy to discuss this in more detail with more specifics and data and evidence and logic. But Roy and crew are not willing or able to… they operate on emotion and the wishes that their preferred platform was as good, or most users, as the top of the line platform.

    Michael Reply:

    With the misspelling of “principle”… it happens. We all make mistakes. :)

  2. Michael said,

    March 7, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    Gravatar

    Interesting how you think Android would not be economical if they paid for the work they use. Does not speak well of the system at all.

    I think they can act and work fairly and still be economical. Apple does it… so there is proof it can be done and even done well. Maybe Google will find a way to do so as well.

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