ChromeOS and Android (Linux) cannot coexist with software patents, or patents on mathematics
Summary: A look at the ‘new’ Google, the company which is hoarding patents (2,566 last year alone) instead of fighting for reform
ONE OF IBM’s biggest or most prominent proponents of software patents (and ironically one of the original promoters of GNU/Linux over there) may now be retired, but he (Irving Wladawsky-Berger) is still writing long essays, even for notoriously anti-Google and anti-Free software publications like the News Corp.-owned Wall Street Journal. As we have pointed out before, IBM continues to be one of the biggest lobbyists for software patents. It’s not apathetic towards them. So what about other big proponents of GNU/Linux, such as Google (with ChromeOS and Android)?
According to this recent article from “Fortune” Magazine (another magazine which targets wealth people, just like the Wall Street Journal), Google has really changed a lot in recent years. “Similarly,” it says, “Google (GOOG), a software company, is rapidly moving into manufacturing. Thirty-nine percent of its patents from 2007-2012 have been in hardware — computer hardware, yes, but also power and energy devices, as well as mechanical hardware—many originating from their ambitious autonomous car project.”
Google has hired lawyers and it increasingly turns into a big proponent of these lawyers’ business: patents. We contacted Google executives before they did this, but to no avail. The company which helps make many Android devices, Qualcomm, is itself turning into somewhat of a patent troll. Consider this Wall Street-oriented publication which titled its analysis “Qualcomm: The Enemy Of My Enemy May Not Be My FRAND”. It says that “Jana Partners, one of Qualcomm’s largest investors, has called for the company to spin-off its chip-making business from its patent-licensing business.” It also says that “Qualcomm’s patent-licensing business, which primarily licenses standard-essential patents, drives most of its profits.”
Here is where Google comes into play: “A pending decision from the Ninth Circuit in a case between Microsoft and Motorola is expected to clarify the scope of royalty rates a company can seek when licensing standard-essential.”
The Microsoft-funded Florian Müller recently wrote about what he called the “real Google”, having done a lot of Oracle lobbying (anti-Google) in his blog, especially in the month March. He published something titled “The Google that has joined Via Licensing’s LTE pool is the real Google–not the FRAND abuser”.
Well, here is the thing; there’s no doubt Google is no longer much of a resistor of patents. There were changes there several years back, regretful changes no doubt. According to another recent article from from “Fortune” Magazine, “Google even uses analytics to prioritize its patent portfolio”. It gives some numbers too: “Google’s intellectual property portfolio is relatively modest compared with the monster one managed by IBM—just 2,566 added last year compared with the 7,534 added by the older company.”
That’s a lot of patents: 2,566. Google made a lot of headlines (more than a hundred of the press alone, including [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32], about one single patent regarding spoiler prevention) and it is now facing a lawsuit, as we’ve just learned, targeting word recognition (included as standard in many Linux-based Google software such as operating systems). “Google Inc. and Motorola Mobility LLC,” says this report from Law 360, “opened fire Tuesday on two software patents covering word-recognition technology owned by Luxembourg-based Arendi S.A.R.L., telling a Patent Trial and Appeals Board panel that key claims in the patents are obvious in light of prior inventions.”
These are software patents. If Google wants things to shift in its favour, perhaps it’s time to put some effort into battling patents on software, not amassing software patents as it currently does. Since the US increasingly turns against software patents (owing to the Alice case and widely-cited SCOTUS ruling), this is not a futile battle. █
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“In a world where there are $500 million dollar patent infringement lawsuits imposed on OS companies (although this is not completely settled yet), how would somebody like Red Hat compete when 6 months ago they only had $80-$90 million in cash? At that point they could not even afford to settle a fraction of a single judgment without devastating their shareholders. I suspect Microsoft may have 50 or more of these lawsuits in the queue. All of them are not asking for hundreds of millions, but most would be large enough to ruin anything but the largest companies. Red Hat did recently raise several hundred million which certainly gives them more staying power. Ultimately, I do not think any company except a few of the largest companies can offer any reasonable insulation to their customers from these types of judgments. You would need a market cap of more than a couple billion to just survive in the OS space.”
–SCO’s Strategic Consultant Mike Anderer
Summary: The corporate media and Web sites or people who are funded by large corporations have essentially suppressed any debate about issues in the patent granting process, thereby guarding software patents and preventing criticism of large corporations’ power grab
WE are deeply disturbed to see the already-elusive debate about patent scope getting lost in the noise, essentially drifting further away. This long post will put forth observations spanning almost 2 months in the English-speaking media.
Apple, which is patenting a lot software, even image editing software (according to Apple propaganda sites), “ramps up patent portfolio to take on Samsung,” to quote the ToryGraph (UK). Samsung is a backer of Android (albeit one that leans towards Microsoft) and it sells the most mobile phones, which run Linux at their core. So, Apple’s anti-Android (using software patents) agenda is very much relevant to the Free/Open Source software community. We have covered this for 5 years (Apple’s attacks on Android using software patents go back to 2010).
“Why does the corporate media not dedicate much space to cover the inherent issues which cause billions in damages to the technology sector?”Is Apple a patent troll? Well, it often behaves like one, but the media reserves the term “trolls” to small entities/actors. We are supposed to believe that Apple is some kind of heroic titan full of innovation, magic, sparkles and wonder, even though manufacturing for Apple is often done by other companies, including the underlying innovations (Samsung, other Korean/Japanese giants, and many Chinese companies make the components of ‘i’ devices).
Why does the corporate media not dedicate much space to cover the inherent issues which cause billions in damages to the technology sector? Why are corporate shakedowns by large corporations not newsworthy (or hardly worth covering)? These should be legitimate questions. Lies by omission are, by all means, lies.
The recent “John Oliver [segment] on patents [is] mostly just a critique of trivial patents and patent trolls but entertaining,” wrote one person among many who saw the HBO coverage. “I didn’t think it was all that funny anyway or maybe I don’t agree with the focus on trolls instead of patent scope,” wrote another person in response to my post. Even TechDirt said that John Oliver chose to focus on “Patent Trolls”. Since when is the patent issue simply reducible to “trolls”? What happened to the fierce debates over patent scope, as those which were of daily recurrence less than a decade ago? The problem of scope has not been addressed. It’s definitely not resolved.
One article that we found some time ago (a week back) portrayed the issue as “poorly written software patents”. To quote in full: “Congress is expected to take up legislation this year that would make it tougher to claim patent infringement.
“The bill has become a top lobbying priority this year for the tech industry, which says it repeatedly fends off frivolous lawsuits because of poorly written software patents and laws that favor patent holders.”
“There oughtn’t be patents on software in the first place.”The problem is software patents, not “poorly written software patents”. There oughtn’t be patents on software in the first place. They cost a lot of money and their toll on society would probably weigh at hundreds of billions of dollars (aggregated over the years worldwide).
Referring to the US-centric ITC, the British media recently shifted focus to patent trolls yet again. “US trade watchdog ITC needs reform to end $bn blackmail,” it said. What about software patents? Are they off topic now?
Consider press releases such as this one about how the USPTO “will grant RES Software two patents for its technological innovations Dynamic Rule Management and Taskbar Affinity.”
This is a couple of software patents. The USPTO is still granting those, despite changes following a SCOTUS ruling.
What was probably most frustrating this month would have to be Associated Press. It unleashed a lot of biased or narrow articles which lay virtually all blame on “trolls”. Consider this article [1, 2, 3]. The Associated Press (AP) set the tone for some widely-spreading AP reports [1, 2, 3] put only “Patent trolls” in the headlines. See for example the article “This year’s fight for the tech industry: Patent trolls”.
The Associated Press helped spread this kind of assumption under different headlines around the world [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] and so did PBS/NPR (Bill Gates-funded), among other large news networks.
“What are politicians going to think? It’s like they are being lobbied by large corporations through the corporate media (often owned directly by those corporations).”Where is the focus on patent scope? What are politicians going to think? It’s like they are being lobbied by large corporations through the corporate media (often owned directly by those corporations).
The political debate has already been perturbed. Watch what Chuck Grassley says. We can see politicians only ever speaking about “trolls” (or “Abusive Patent Litigation” to use Grassley’s term). Consider this report titled “Dem senator looking to slow ‘patent troll’ debate”. To quote: “Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) is trying to end the rush to get a bill through Congress to rein in “patent trolls.”
“Judging by the speedy approval of the Innovation Act in the House last Congress, Coons said many members might not be in tune with the debate.”
They call it “Innovation Act”, but all it does is target trolls. It does nothing to or about innovation. It just helps large corporations push aside patent trolls, except themselves.
“Regarding the Innovation Act”, another article about this misleadingly-named bill, says: “As a student at the University of Minnesota, one of the top research universities in the nation, I am greatly concerned with the proposed legislation dealing with patent reform. I agree there is a need to cut down on abusive patent practices under the current law by so-called “patent trolls.” However, current legislation in Congress is too broad in addressing this problem. The unintended consequences of the Innovation Act are too great to ignore.”
Well, that is not the issue. The analysis above, courtesy of a student, is too shallow and does little to actually show what’s wrong with the so-called ‘Innovation Act’. the “Innovation Act” as they call it is just a wishlist of large corporations. That’s not to say that patent trolls are not a problem at all; they’re mostly a symptom of a much larger problem. What the “Innovation Act” would do is tackle only some actors while leaving large corporations exempt from reform. Rather than call it “Innovation Act” we should call it “The Large Corporations’ Act”.
“532,900,000 Reasons Why We Need Patent Reform Now” is the headline from TechDirt in which a ruling about software patents (or relating to software patents) gets mentioned. TechDirt writes: “Over the last year, there’s been plenty of good news in the fight against the abuse of patents to stifle innovation. A bunch of court rulings have gone the right way, with the biggest being the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Alice v. CLS Bank case, that has resulted in many courts invalidating patents, the US Patent Office suddenly rejecting more patents and a rapid decline in patent lawsuits.”
“A real reform would tackle the patents, not the actors who use them.”A real reform would tackle the patents, not the actors who use them. Many of these actors are parasites, but one can generalise the means, not the ends.
“Conservatives and Patent Reform,” an article by Gary Shapiro, alludes to the above and says: “A serious case can be made that they should reconsider their opposition.”
With or without a bogus bill that does little or nothing to tackle the core issue we will all remain between a rock and a hard place. The problem of “trolls” is being overly exaggerated (not dealing with the patents they so often use) in stories like ““Shopping cart” patent troll shamelessly keeps litigating, and losing”. Corporate media pundits like Bill Snyder also play a role in the misdirection, with articles like “Patent trolls are on the run, but not vanquished yet” or “Why Congress must ensure ‘game over’ for patent trolls” (from The Hill).
It sure looks like the corporations hijacked the debate, it’s all about “trolls” now. Debate over patents must focus on patent scope, yet all the large corporations want us to obsess over trolls (smaller trolls than them). “The FTC should release an interim report to help patent reform,” said this other headline from The Hill and on the third of April we learned from this site that “Conservatives wrong to oppose patent reform” (the bogus reform, not the reform that is actually needed).
In the Web sites of patent lawyers we learn of “Two signs that patent reform momentum may be slowing” and get told the typical myth of “Startups and Patents”. Patents are protectionism for large corporations and only a waste of time and money for startups, which can usually not sue large corporations because it would get them sued back, using a much larger heap of patents from these large corporations.
A recent article by Glyn Moody was titled “Does Patent Licensing by Patent Trolls – Or Anyone – Serve A Useful Purpose?”
Moody alludes to a “paper [which] also provides yet more evidence that the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, designed to encourage the commercialization of research results through licensing, actually turns universities into patent trolls — something that Techdirt has discussed before. Although the authors suggest that further research is needed to confirm their results, it already seems pretty clear that both patent trolls and Bayh-Dole need to go.”
“When some nonsense like “Innovation Act” says it targets “trolls” what it actually means to say is that it targets small entities with no real products. These are a nuisance to large corporations because the corporations cannot sue back (there are no products to sue over).”Yes, universities too can act like patent trolls, not just large corporations do. When some nonsense like “Innovation Act” says it targets “trolls” what it actually means to say is that it targets small entities with no real products. These are a nuisance to large corporations because the corporations cannot sue back (there are no products to sue over).
There was recently some discussion about the case of Life360, including the ‘Dear Piece of Shit’ letter. “Fresh off his patent win against a company called AGIS,” said one trolls expert, “Life360 CEO Chris Hulls has published an op-ed advising other companies on how to respond to similar patent threats.” Here is more from the same expert: “In May 2014, Life360 CEO Chris Hulls received an aggressive patent demand letter. The letter, from lawyers representing a company called Advanced Ground Information Systems (AGIS), told him he needed to pay for a “royalty-bearing license” to its four patents, or Life360 and its customers would have to “cease and desist” from infringement.
“In other words: pay up, or shut down your company.”
In the case of large corporations it would be “pay up, or we’ll block imports.” It can also be “pay up, reduce your revenue/increase running costs, pass costs to your customers”.
How is that different from what Apple is doing? How is that different from Microsoft’s patent extortion? It’s only semantics and labels (“trolls”), revolving around either scale or branding. The debate has been littered with propaganda, so a lot of people have been systematically incited against “trolls” while ignoring the broader picture.
Over a month ago there was a large online argument over trolls because “Patent trolls serve valuable role in innovation, Stanford expert says”. Defending patent trolls is not unthinkable, especially from universities where trolling has become a common practice (we have covered some examples over the years). Stanford staff, some allege, was probably paid to say that or has some conflict of interest. But we suspect the cause of this stance is different. This whole “Stanford” story (it was framed as a Stanford thing, despite involving just one person) led to some strong responses from ‘anti-trolls’ (and trolls only) sites [1, 2, 3], with one arguing that proof is required. To give some background to this (quoting the above): “So-called patent trolls may actually benefit inventors and the innovation economy, according to a Stanford intellectual property expert.
“Stephen Haber, a Stanford political science professor, suggests in new research that concerns about too much litigation involving patents is misguided.”
“There’s almost a refusal to return to talking about patent scope.”The obsession over patent trolls is what bothers us the most, not the stance — however dumb — of Stephen Haber. There’s almost a refusal to return to talking about patent scope. One site that focuses on trolls (“Patent Progress”) lobbies hard for the “Innovation Act”, stating in one of its headlines: “If the Innovation Act Is Bad For Patents, Why Do Large Patent Owners Support It?”
Those “Large Patent Owners” are large corporations, such as those which are funding “Patent Progress” (through CCIA). Watch the tone of recent posts. It’s like lobbying on behalf of large corporations. Another post says “Professor Stephen Haber of Stanford recently came out with a paper that, according to him, “suggests in new research that concerns about too much litigation involving patents is misguided.”
Well, the real issue is too much patent granting, not too much litigation, which usually is simply the result of too much patent granting. Tackle patent scope, not scale of plaintiffs.
Here is a recent “I.P. Scholars’ Letter to Congress re Patent Reform”. “This open letter to Congress,” says the abstract, “signed by 51 economics and legal scholars, responds to claims that there is little empirical evidence available to assess the performance of the American patent system. The letter explains that a large and increasing body of evidence indicates that the net effect of patent litigation is to raise the cost of innovation and inhibit technological progress. The letter also includes a bibliography of relevant empirical studies of patent litigation.”
Why focus on patent litigation and not the scope of patents foolishly being granted by the USPTO?
Covering patents have become frustrating in the sense that mega-corporations keep distracting from the real debate(s), lobbying for laws that instead protect only themselves. A lot of blogs that proclaim to be speaking for patent reform are actually tools of large corporations that fund them. Pseudo activism (lobbying) is when you’d be led to believe that you’re reading from real activists while in reality they’re tools of corporate power. The academics (non-’IP’ academics, i.e. not boosters of the parasitic elements) want software patents and other software patents to end, but corporations want to demolish only their own competition and rivals, thus they focus on ‘trolls’ and the corporate media helps them achieve this.
“Well, the real issue is too much patent granting, not too much litigation, which usually is simply the result of too much patent granting.”The EFF, a relatively independent (from corporations) activism group, now says it is “Fighting for Patent Reform in Washington, D.C.”. Having just tackled the infamous podcasting patent as part of a broader new action to take on software patents, the EFF receives a lot of positive publicity [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18]. Can real change come about this way? Is the EFF influential enough?
There is currently another piece of useless ‘reform’, but nothing is as bad as the America Invents Act, which we wrote about before. “Using the new Post Grant Review and Inter Partes Review procedures in the America Invents Act,” Steph writes, “hedge funds are extorting money from pharmaceutical companies by either filing or threatening to file for re-exam.”
When it comes to pharmaceutical patents, there is no lack of articles about “trolls”, including pro-trolls articles. There are anti-reform lawyers writing about it because to patent lawyers the trolling can be good business; their main concern is that it harms the legitimacy of the system through which they prey on real (producing) workers, acting more like parasites than scientists or even lawyers. █
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Making distribution of software strictly contingent upon payments
Summary: A look at recent news about software patents and especially Free/libre software, which is inherently incompatible with them
SOME time ago the OIN announced that it was extending its ‘coverage’ of ‘protection’ for Linux-related packages. “For this update,” is said, “115 new packages will be added to the Linux System, out of almost 800 proposed by various parties. Key additions are the reference implementations of the popular Go and Lua programming languages, Nginx, Openshift, and development tools like CMake and Maven. This update will represent an increase of approximately 5% of the total number of packages covered in the Linux System, a reflection of the incremental and disciplined nature of the update process.”
It’s a shame that they don’t mention GNU at all, but let’s not get too pedantic about words and ‘brands’. Simon Phipps from the OSI covered this almost a week later (the technology media largely ignored the OIN’s announcement), writing that “Docker, Puppet, LibreOffice, and the Go language are the latest additions to the Open Invention Network’s extensive patent nonaggression umbrella” (patent pool may be more accurate a term than nonaggression umbrella).
“Out of nowhere,” the inventor and developer of Ogg wrote some weeks ago, “a new patent licensing group just announced it has formed a second, competing patent pool for HEVC that is independent of MPEG LA. And they apparently haven’t decided what their pricing will be… maybe they’ll have a fee structure ready in a few months.”
So a new patent troll emerges to attack Free software in multimedia, adding its weight (and tax) to that of MPEG-LA, a patent troll that’s already viciously criticised by Simon Phipps. It’s not getting much better, is it? The OIN has no way to protect against such patent trolls. If they are non-practising, then there is no way to retaliate with a defensive lawsuit, is there? That’s just why we deem OIN not part of the overall solution, just a sort of duct tape. The OIN does not lobby for patent reform that involves elimination of software patents. The OIN was founded and first run by proponents of software patents (it was initially managed by a man from IBM, perhaps the leading or biggest proponent of software patents).
“It is somewhat understandable that Google fears destruction by patents given all the patent attacks against Android, multimedia codes that are FOSS (VP8/9), etc.”Meanwhile we have noticed (last night) that Google goes deeper into the patents mess. “Google is a large company that has plenty of technology and many innovations,” says the report, “and in turn they hold plenty of patents on those technologies, but they still fell behind other big name tech companies last year for the biggest earners of U.S. patents. According to Fortune though, Google did rise up the list to reach being the company with the 8th largest amount of U.S. patents being awarded to them last year, gaining around 38% more patents in 2014 than they had the previous year which totaled a number of 2,566 U.S patents in all. With such a large portfolio it must seem like a daunting task to keep up on all the information related to patents in Google’s portfolio, and that may be true, but Google’s legal team has more than a few tools at their disposal to get the job done and one of those is an analytics software called PatentIQ.”
It is somewhat understandable that Google fears destruction by patents given all the patent attacks against Android, multimedia codes that are FOSS (VP8/9), etc. Companies like Microsoft, Apple, Oracle and numerous smaller trolls that they are feeding (Rockstar Consortium and MPEG-LA, to name just a couple, let alone Intellectual Ventures, CPTN, MOSAID/Conversant, and Acacia) are usually behind it.
“Kudelski Group and Google Enter Into Patent Cross License Agreement,” said this headline very recently, adding not many details except this: “The Kudelski Group, a leading independent provider of media protection and value-added service technology, and Google, today announced they have entered into a multi-year patent cross licensing agreement.”
There is clearly a systematic issue here and unless we manage to get rid of software patents in the US, this issue won’t just go away.
Simon Phipps wrote another related article recently. Titled “Facebook gives in on patent grant”, the article explains how occasional patent bully Facebook tries to appease its critics:
Late Friday, Facebook announced it’s finally giving in to pressure from the open source community and fixed its open source patent grant. While most people felt the intent was good and welcomed the original version of the grant, it was worded in such a way as to give Facebook a significant legal advantage in any open source community where it was the initiator.
While current versions of modern open source licenses, such as the Apache License, the Mozilla Public License, and the General Public License, all include coverage to patent rights associated with the copyrights the licenses cover, older licenses like BSD and MIT include no explicit patent grants. Facebook was following common practice by giving a full license to any patents necessarily infringed by users of code in Facebook projects that incorporated the grant under those licenses.
For the Free/Open Source software world the patent situation has become very tricky, so in the coming few posts, spread across the coming few days, we are going to explain where we’re at when it comes to patent law. It’s not looking too good because large corporations diverted the entire public debate to “patent trolls”. The corporate media helps them do this. █
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Show of ‘love’ by aggression
Summary: Microsoft’s campaign of destruction, extortion, etc. against the most widely used Linux-powered operating system is revisited in light of new reports
ONCE upon a time there was a company called Nokia which dominated the mobile market and then started moving to Linux. It quickly became a top contributor to Linux, in the development sense, and later there were rumours about it embracing Android (or exploring it alongside MeeGo). But Microsoft killed Nokia (using a mole) before Nokia could actualise any of this and Nokia’s Linux ambitions were never realised, except in the company founded by former employees (Jolla). Tizen and Sailfish OS have yet to fulfill the promise of MeeGo, or else they will go down in history just like WebOS, which LG now owns and develops (Tizen is developed almost exclusively by the other Korean giant, Samsung).
It is now being reported that quite unsurprisingly Nokia may be getting back to Android endeavours, without any reliance on or affiliation with Microsoft. We have heard that for a while, but this time it sounds more substantial. Whether Nokia considers going down the same route as Cyanogen (‘Microsoft Android’, i.e. ‘Microsoft Nokia’ again) we don’t quite know yet. One thing we do know is that Microsoft attempts the embrace, extend, extinguish approach against Android right now. That’s what the ‘new’ Microsoft is trying to do. According to this new report about Ballmer, Sinofsky and other people who are no longer at Microsoft, “Steve Ballmer killed an early version of Office for iOS because it compromised Windows, Bell said. He added that Steve Sinofsky’s reign was marked by infighting, hampering Microsoft’s strategic response to competition from Apple and Google.”
“It is not atypical for the media, and especially for foes of Android, to rewrite the history of Nokia and how Microsoft destroyed it.”The takeover of Nokia had multiple objectives including patent extortion of Android. It worked only to a certain degree. Nokia revisionism has just been reported to us by a reader, who told us that this article from an Apple propaganda site includes “revisionism.”
“Elop killed Nokia’s phone division,” iophk wrote to us, emphasising the part which started with: “But the company was…”
It is not atypical for the media, and especially for foes of Android, to rewrite the history of Nokia and how Microsoft destroyed it. There ought to have been a European investigation into it, but it never happened. In December last year the New York Times wrote that “Google’s Detractors Take Their Fight to the States”. The author focused on Microsoft and said that Sony’s leaked “emails show the extent of the efforts with state attorneys general. The messages detail how the Motion Picture Association of America — the Hollywood industry group — and an organization backed by Microsoft, Expedia and Oracle, among others, have aggressively lobbied attorneys general to build cases against Google in recent years, sometimes in complementary ways.”
Microsoft also uses Nokia to attack Google and Android at a regulatory level, as we showed some years ago. A new article titled “The Google gold rush” says: “No sooner had Margrethe Vestager, the European commissioner for competition, accused Google of violating antitrust laws last week than the mobile phones of Brussels-based lawyers started buzzing with messages from LinkedIn telling them that Microsoft’s local law firm needed two anti-trust lawyers — and fast.”
We have already written a great deal about Microsoft’s role in these anti-Google actions which coincide with Microsoft’s attempt to ‘hijack’ Android from Google. “Google’s Biggest European Headache Isn’t Search,” says this new headline, “It’s Android.”
Yes, it's all about using Cyanogen and patent extortion against Android while European regulators limit Google’s response.
Whether Microsoft’s embrace, extend, extinguish approach will work or not remains to be seen. Microsoft may have tried similar tricks before, e.g. using Nokia and partners like Facebook (Home), Amazon and others before. It never worked.
Here we have so-called ‘hackers’ bringing more Microsoft spyware (Cortana or Portaña is software that records Android users and transmits the audio to Microsoft) carrying water for Microsoft. One article explains that “Portaña is apparently communicating with Microsoft’s servers, and it’s not a strict port: the hackers have not recreated all the digital assistant’s features. Portaña naturally can’t interface and integrate with Android and its various features like Cortana does with Windows Phone.”
Either way, Microsoft benefits from this. It’s part of the notorious datagrab effort. One way to interpret the whole “cloud computing” buzz is a concerted effort to gather people’s data in very few companies servers’ (worldwide, by merit of replication), especially if these companies already have a special relationship (e.g. subpoenas, PRISM interceptions and so on) with spying agencies in many countries. █
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Image from Android Beat
Summary: Microsoft’s sheer abuse against Android is laying bare for everyone to see now that Microsoft has paralysed Google’s legal department with potential antitrust action in Europe
WHAT can we say? Cyanogen's latest move is very troublesome. We have warned about this for a very long time, but much of the press played along with Microsoft’s plot (covering Office for Android), propping up Cyanogen etc.
So, what do we do now? Microsoft has nothing to fear but an informed public (or truth itself). The sooner people realise what Microsoft is up to, the sooner they will reject Cyanogen and stop buying from Samsung (we called for a Samsung boycott way back in 2007, right after Samsung had signed its first Microsoft patent deal covering Linux).
“If Microsoft bought Cyanogen, as some people had speculated, it would harm its ability to pretend ‘independence’.”Several readers have sent us links about Cyanogen. My wife says Cyanogen’s interest is “just making money, they don’t care about privacy or people’s concerns.” Richard Stallman asked me today for more information (having read my previous articles) and the better familiar we are with this circumstance and the underlying facts, the more effectively we can challenge this “Embrace, Extend, Extinguish” (EEE) manoeuvre from Microsoft.
A Microsoft-linked site weighed in on Friday, explaining to readers how Cyanogen is essentially a Microsoft proxy. The article titled “3 Companies Are Helping Microsoft Corporation Steal Android From Google Inc.” It also names Samsung and Amazon (many executives from Microsoft moved there, including those who manage the Linux efforts, such as Kindle, and ended up paying Microsoft for Linux). The section about Cyanogen is titled “Making Android-powered Windows Phones”. That’s a good description of Microsoft’s goal.
As a kind of FUD advisory, one ought to know that Microsoft has gone “full frontal assault” mode on Android. It’s usually done through proxies, e.g. biased publications with Microsoft boosters who are shamelessly misleading audiences. Here for example is some Microsoft propaganda from Microsoft’s booster Matt Rosoff (yes, he is still around). It was published yesterday. It used deception/false charts, big lies, shameless PR, and ultimately sought to mislead Google, mischaracterise Google, and incite readers. It’s disguised as analysis, but being from Rosoff (a loyal Microsoft 'analyst'), one oughtn’t expect it to be honest.
“Deceptive charts,” called it iophk, “using ‘shipments’ rather than activations. Microsoft market share gets the illusion of being more than double that way. In reality it is less than 2% and shrinking.”
What Rosoff provides is not advice for Google (the headline says “It’s time for Google to throw ‘open’ Android under the bus”), Rosoff has been a Microsoft propagandist for many years and his words should be treated accordingly. Rosoff is offering a trap, misguided ‘ideas’ that would essentially help his friends at Microsoft and get Google in a lot of trouble (e.g. in China, where promises have been made).
The anti-Android propaganda (not just the above) is all in sync; in Europe there’s talk of antitrust (after Microsoft lobbying and pressure through proxies like Nokia) and then there’s the bribe for Cyanogen to sell out (official announcement here). They want to pretend that ‘evil’ Google must be destroyed and Microsoft will be our ‘saviour’. All of this happened almost on the same day, so there is probably no coincidence in timing. It looks like a strategic alignment of announcements that exploit people’s emotions and put forth a misleading storyline; while Microsoft lobbyists are misleading regulators Microsoft is proposed as the ‘solution’ by Cyanogen and while regulators slam Google over many things (some legitimate, e.g. privacy) Cyanogen steps forth to ‘help’. Microsoft is trying to pressure OEMs — using threats of litigation or bribes — to preinstall Microsoft (and thus drop Google), all whilst EU press (and by extension the international media; see the New York Times article “Microsoft, Once an Antitrust Target, Is Now Google’s Regulatory Scold” further down in this post) attacks Google for being so unbelievably evil (even compared to Microsoft). Microsoft is about as evil as ever, if not worse. The fact that it hides this behind a grin and massive PR efforts (lies) won’t change that.
We already see some large media sites helping Cyanogen (explaining to people how to replace Android with ‘Microsoft Android’) and promoting Microsoft’s narrative. We, in response, ought to work hard to make sure Cyanogen has not a single partner and that people don’t ever install it. We called for a boycott quite some time ago and shortly afterwards OnePlus dumped Cyanogen ([cref 82427 there is more to be done by OnePlus and its users).
Over at the Microsoft-friendly ZDNet one does not get the full story. Microsoft’s Mouth at ZDNet/CBS, Mary Jo Foley, downplays the evilness of this move. As one site reminded readers: “There were rumors before of a potential synergy between both companies especially when Cyanogen initiated its funding round. Although at that time Microsoft did not invest, but rumor mill announced a potential team up between the two, which has now been realized.”
Wired shamelessly labelled Microsoft spyware ‘choice’, saying that “[t]he partnership, as detailed by Cyanogen yesterday, will allow the budding mobile OS to integrate Microsoft apps like Outlook, Office, Skype, Bing, OneDrive, and OneNote. The subtext here is that these apps can act as a replacement for the ones that Google appends to its Android releases, such as Gmail, Maps, Hangouts, and more.”
Further down it says: “That’s a lot of upside with not much to lose, especially given the recent cross-platform push. And an arrangement like this makes more sense than the $70 million investment Microsoft was rumored to make back in January. Cyanogen doesn’t have to feel beholden to one software suite, and Microsoft limits its financial exposure and Windows Phone conflicts.”
That’s untrue. Cyanogen is imposing or at least pushing Microsoft software, it is not offering choice.
In response to this article from Wired (titled “Microsoft Just Took Android’s Future Out of Google’s Hands”) one person published a post titled “No, Microsoft isn’t taking Android’s future out of Google’s hands — here’s why”. To quote the conclusion: “Microsoft isn’t taking Android’s future out of Google’s hands, it is likely taking Cyanogen’s future out of Cyanogen’s hands.”
Cyanogen is now a proxy of Microsoft. If Microsoft bought Cyanogen, as some people had speculated, it would harm its ability to pretend ‘independence’.
What Microsoft does here with Cyanogen is similar to what Microsoft did to Yahoo! (Yahoo! shows signs of regaining some independence now). All that Microsoft can do right now is try hard to bamboozle politicians, developers and users, pretending it is all about “choice” rather than destroying competition, much as it did when it took over (before shattering) Novell, Corel, and Nokia. Microsoft does not need to complete an acquisition in order to destroy the competition. Microsoft’s proxy war on Android is very much similar to other Microsoft plots to “knife the baby”, to use Microsoft’s own words (in reference to Linux). And for anyone still gullible enough (or amnesic) to believe that Microsoft no longer hates GNU/Linux, revisit the following series:
We urge readers to keep track of where many people who run Cyanogen are from; many come from Microsoft’s back yard in Seattle. “The startup that wants to take Android ‘away from Google’ just struck a deal with Microsoft” is a new report that helps put it in perspective. “The move,” says the report, “comes months after The Wall Street Journal and The Information reported that Microsoft had considered investing in Cyanogen, but the company opted to strike a partnership with the company instead.”
Wall Street Journal‘s owner Rupert Murdoch (a close friend and business partner of Bill Gates) gave the money instead and Microsoft is then making the investment ‘worthwhile’. Clever accounting tricks are likely to be at hand. Microsoft potentially reassures “return on investment” by making promises of deal before some third parties funnel money into Cyanogen. Larry Goldfarb from BayStar, a key investor in SCO, once said that Microsoft’s “Mr. Emerson and I discussed a variety of investment structures wherein Microsoft would ‘backstop,’ or guarantee in some way, BayStar’s investment…. Microsoft assured me that it would in some way guarantee BayStar’s investment in SCO.”
Learn from SCO history.
“Microsoft has kept its coffers full for the fight,” says the New York Times on the same day as the Cyanogen deal, “spending more on lobbying here than any European company.”
The timing cannot be a coincidence. The report from the New York Times is titled “Microsoft, Once an Antitrust Target, Is Now Google’s Regulatory Scold” and it serves to demonise Google at a very strategic time. It says “Microsoft has founded or funded a cottage industry of splinter groups. The most prominent, the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace, or Icomp, has waged a relentless public relations campaign promoting grievances against Google. Icomp hosts webinars, panel discussions and news conferences. It conducted a study that suggested changes made by Google to appease regulators were largely window dressing.”
Microsoft is still using lots of proxies, some of which we wrote about before, and it is giving politicians the wrong impression that Android (Free software) is ‘abuse’. This is clearly a proxy fight which blends with the “Embrace, Extend, Extinguish” (EEE) manoeuvre that Microsoft has made famous. Fight back or be extinguished. █
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Fooled by Microsoft into treating Free/libre software as ‘abuse’
Summary: Microsoft’s vicious war on Linux (and Android in its current incarnation) takes more sophisticated — albeit illegal (as per the RICO Act) — forms
Using all sorts of proxies, such as TurboHercules a few years ago in Europe, Microsoft loves to attack the competition at a regulatory level. It even bribes some journalists (or lobbyists in disguise) to produce complementary dirt with with to bamboozle politicians and regulators. This is not new; this is not surprising. This is same old Microsoft. It’s an extension of AstroTurfing, which culminates in legal actions.
To quote this article from a few years back [hat tip Will Hill]:
Thomas Vinje, the founder of the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS), … “They have learned how to play the game in Europe,” Vinje said of Microsoft, which itself has been the target of antitrust regulators there. Microsoft has invested huge amounts in attacking its rivals, including Oracle and Google as well as IBM, in Brussels in recent years, he said.
A lot of readers must have heard by now about antitrust fire aimed at Google, or more specifically at Android. Google is the wrong target of course; as pointed out in some responses, there are perhaps 1,000 types of Android devices and over “18,000 Android Phone Models in the Wild,” according to Google (not exact quote). There’s no monopoly here and the code is Free software, so it’s not the same as Windows (where only one company controls the source code and controls the end product). As Google can defend itself just fine and we are not some kind of lawyers (having to speak to other non-technical lawyers), we are going to spare the counter arguments for now and instead focus on Microsoft's role in such action (Microsoft loves to hide behind proxies when it attacks Android).
“Using all sorts of proxies, such as TurboHercules a few years ago in Europe, Microsoft loves to attack the competition at a regulatory level.”A few days ago we wrote about a couple of lawyers staging action against Android apps in a lawsuit which they portrayed as a public action. Their goal, based on the article, was to push Microsoft apps into Android. They dropped their action only after Microsoft had managed to use patent extortion against Samsung to put Microsoft spyware inside Galaxy devices (the most widely used Android devices) and based on this new report, “Microsoft royalties dispute was settled in February and was swiftly followed by the bundling of Microsoft apps” (i.e. extortion by Microsoft leading to a ‘compromise’). The Microsoft-friendly The Verge does not tell the whole story. Microsoft is still a deeply criminal company that attacks Android/Linux and Free software using patents; by using threats of litigation it violates the law. This is clearly a crime based on readings of the RICO Act.
“And the EU concentrates anti-trust action on Google,” bemoans Will Hill. This could certainly be used as a timely decoy while Microsoft ‘rescues’ us from ‘evil’ Google. Do not forget how Microsoft actively attacks GNU/Linux, as we noted in the following series a month ago:
More extortion from Microsoft, much as we expected, is now going beyond Samsung, confirming what happened with Samsung in February and proving us right all along. Quoting the British press (yesterday): “A new report claims Microsoft hasn’t been offering Android device vendors any money to bundle its mobile apps on their phones and slabs; rather, it has offered to reduce the tolls it collects from the mobe-makers.
“Citing sources among supply chain players in China and Taiwan, DigiTimes Research says Redmond has offered to cut its patent licensing fees if Android vendors agree to ship their kit with Microsoft apps preinstalled, including OneDrive, OneNote, Skype, and in some cases Office.”
Here is the original report. It says: “According to Digitimes Research’s latest findings from Taiwan’s and China’s smartphone/tablet upstream supply chain, in exchange for hardware players to pre-install its software applications such as Office, OneDrive or Skype onto their Android-based devices, Microsoft is offering them discounts on the patent licensing fees it charges their Android devices.”
In less surprising news, which again proves us right all along, Microsoft and Cyanogen officially join forces. “After many rumors claimed that Microsoft would either buy or invest in Cyanogen,” says BGR, “the two companies on Thursday confirmed that they’ve formed a strategic partnership.” (Cyanogen is confirmed as a Microsoft Trojan horse also elsewhere, so it’s not merely a rumour)
So Cyanogen is now a Microsoft proxy. See our previous analysis of it. We got it 100% right, even months in advance. Microsoft is now advancing to yet more victims.
Rupert Murdoch gave money to Cyanogen and his Android-hostile newspaper is now attacking Android using the European probe, invoked to a large degree by Microsoft’s proxies network, which had lobbied Europe to launch antitrust action against Android for several years now.
To summarise what we have here, first there is blackmail from Microsoft, which says it “loves” (to extort) Linux. Microsoft is apparently so ‘nice’ towards Linux that it now seeks to preinstall Microsoft spyware or will sue those who resist, using software patents which it refuses to even name. “And now install our apps on CM and we will extort you less with software patents,” said Jesse Bufton. At the same time we have Free software facing antitrust charges due to a lot of Microsoft lobbying, as Glyn Moodt noted. “Part of a long predicted attempt to make free software illegal,” wrote Will Hill, “Calling free software cooperation, “dumping”.”
Here are some more articles about it [1, 2, 3]. Someone (maybe FSFE representatives) should explain the European regulators what Free software is and how it works. Currently, Microsoft lobbyists and proxies deceive them into the ludicrous idea of Free software ‘monopoly’.
Android is eating Microsoft’s lunch and getting Microsoft’s money (even in money processing machines), so no wonder Microsoft lobbies/begs so hard for the European authorities to harass Android, or by extension Google. Anybody who still thinks that Microsoft has become kinder is clearly not paying attention. Lawsuits by proxy, regulators misled, patent lawsuits etc. are no kindness.
The Mafia says, “do as we say and our “protection money” demands will vanish/decrease” and in very much the same way Microsoft now deals with Android backers. These are the tricks of a cartel, which under RICO Act rules should be considered a crime. If Google’s motto was “do no evil”, then Microsoft’s motto should be “always be evil”.
Will Hill remarks on the idea that Microsoft will treat more gently companies that put Microsoft spyware inside Android “They simply won’t ruin them today,” he stresses, “with lawsuits and breakage in Windows and other Microsoft properties.”
As long as Microsoft is connected to (and serves) evil monopolistic/imperialistic apparatuses like the NSA don’t expect it to be subjected to laws such as the RICO Act. Microsoft is now just subjected to the law of rule (by surveillance, espionage, back doors etc.), not the rule of law. Microsoft is a political company and like the country it is strongly connected to (staff overlap), it uses blackmail to get its way and always enjoys impunity. Google does not deal with an ordinary company when it competes with Microsoft; antitrust complaints not over privacy but over Free software, and a few other things by extension. This has become a political battle because Microsoft cannot win technical battles. █
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Summary: A call for OnePlus to reconsider any future updates from Microsoft’s Trojan horse, Cyanogen
LAST MONTH we wrote about speculations that Microsoft is about to buy Cyanogen. We wrote a lot about Cyanogen prior to this, noting that Microsoft was using Cyanogen to disrupt (as in interfere) with Android using words and actions. OnePlus dumped CyanogenMod very soon afterwards because it had developed and quickly turned to its own version of Android (not a Microsoft proxy) and according to this new article, despite OnePlus moving away from Cyanogen, this Microsoft proxy (CyanogenMod) keeps trying to embed itself in OnePlus phones. Users of OnePlus (or owners of such devices) should be smarter than this. They ought to avoid any of CyanogenMod altogether. Cyanogen became a Microsoft proxy that harms users in many ways as we’ve explained over the past month.
“Remember that Replicant is based on Android, perpetually living in coexistence.”Microsoft does not need to bribe/buy Cyanogen if it can get friends to ‘invest’ in it and then pump money (bundling “deal”) to pay these friends back through Cyanogen. This seems like a clever passage of payments. Cyanogen is inherently destroyed. It’s like Nokia, Yahoo, Novell and so on after their Microsoft deals.
The story of Microsoft and Android/Linux/Free software is very much like that of “The Scorpion and the Tortoise”. The ‘new Microsoft’ — if there was ever such a thing — learned to champion entryism, patent lawsuits by proxy, FUD by proxy, bribery, and lobbying. Do not believe for a second that Microsoft means well or comes in peace. It has become exceedingly obvious that disruption of Free software (Android for example) is the strategy of choice, not creating better products. There is also a lot of incitation, e.g. accusations of monopoly by Google. Microsoft manufactured several lawsuits over the years, aggravating and publicly vilifying Android backers, developers, etc. Android has been wrongly viewed as a destroyer of competing Linux-based mobile environments, but it can be complementary (for desktops too). Inciting GNU/Linux users — not just politicians and proprietary software users — against Android seems to have been one rather clever strategy against a leading platform that eats Microsoft’s lunch (cow cash). AOSP, Alien Dalvik, ARC Welder etc. dispel many villainous myths about Android as “bad” for GNU/Linux, despite it being a step in a good direction (not ideal, but at least good). Remember that Replicant is based on Android, perpetually living in coexistence. As long as Android is doing well, Replicant and F-Droid will be fine. █
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Summary: Despite Apple’s history of initiating patent aggression against its competition (mostly Android-backing companies), the US corporate media treats Apple like a victim
OUR previous article showed how Apple was helping Microsoft extort Linux. It’s not hard to see and it’s not hard to understand. Both companies are proprietary software giants to which Linux is a massive threat. Outside the United States Android is slaughtering Apple’s ‘i’ devices and outside some very large (and monolithic) corporations it’s getting hard to see Windows dominance. Many people use Android, GNU/Linux, and sometimes “Apple”-branded PCs.
Neglecting to mention the ITC‘s role in pushing Apple‘s agenda of blocking the competition (usually foreign, as in non-US), the US media obsessed over Apple as the victim of patents, citing this case where not Apple was the troll. “The patents relate to accessing and storing downloaded songs, videos and games,” said one report (i.e. software patents), and “Apple [was] Ordered To Pay $532.9 Million In Patent Case”.
Poor Apple. Now it knows what it feels like to have trolls (like Apple) attacking the competition. See this report titled “ITC Trims Software Patent Probe For Apple Products”. It says that “The International Trade Commission has cut back an investigation into Apple Inc.’s consumer hardware devices after nonpracticing patent entity Enterprise Systems Technologies S.a.r.l withdrew claims that the devices infringed one of its software patents, according to a Tuesday order.” This shows a sort of confirmatory action wherein Apple is treated gently by the ITC — a trend we noted here before (going back years ago). Also see this report titled “Apple Patent Tips Real-Time Route Tracking”. Some innovation, eh? Harming society one patent at a time.
In other news, Ericsson, which uses Android, seeks a ban on Apple products and it’s suing. This news is over a month old, but Ericsson’s action is mostly reactionary because it’s Apple that started bullying Android, striving to embargo imports. One report said that “Apple had been paying royalties to Stockholm-based Ericsson before a license expired in mid-January. When talks over renewal failed, the companies sued each other, seeking court rulings on whether Ericsson’s royalty demands on fundamental technology were fair and reasonable.”
Here is some additional coverage [1, 2, 3, 4].
If we follow the narrative painted or thrown together by US media we may be left with the illusion of parity or reciprocity — a hypothetical situation where Android companies are basically the aggressors against Apple. Historically it was Apple that started it all by suing multiple Android backers, starting with HTC and Samsung.
To be fair, Google does pursue its share of software patents these days, the latest example of which is this creepy software patent: “As of March 31, 2015, Google owns a shiny new patent (8,996,429) outlining a robot that changes personalities based on circumstance and a wide variety of user information. The system stores useful data in the cloud where it can be accessed by other robots. Adorable robots, if we’re to go by Google’s “conceptual graphical representations” (above).”
Google never sued Apple over patents. In fact, Google never sues other companies over patent infringement unless those companies sue Google first. Therein lies the massive difference between Apple and Google, not just Microsoft and Google. Putting aside the “don’t be evil” mantra, Google is definitely a lot less evil than Apple and Microsoft. █
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