Hot off the press:
Microsoft and Novell Announce Departure of OpenSUSE Project, Renewed Patent Strategy
Customers will continue to embrace SUSE Windows Enterprise; technical collaboration between Microsoft and Novell will expand Windows Vista distribution to create Windows 7
REDMOND, Wash., and WALTHAM, Mass. — Apr. 1, 2008 — Over one year after signing an agreement to exchange protection money and securing several kneecaps, Novell Inc. and Microsoft Corp. today announced that OpenSUSE developers had reached a state of unrest. As such, Microsoft and Novell decided to revise their strategic partnership and combine the best of two platforms’ intellectual property, protected by an extensive portfolio of valuable patents.
The two companies will continue to swap intellectual property (IP) and create Microsoft Windows 7, accompanied by a derivative release named SUSE Windows, ensuring that OpenSUSE developers, formerly of SuSE, can continue to develop GNU/Linux solutions with peace of mind. In addition, Novell and Microsoft announced an expansion of their strategic collaboration to create the Oligarchy Invention Network (OIN), whose purpose is to litigate — albeit by proxy — against disruptive technologies whose market cost is zero.
“This agreement has been about Novell’s shareholder since day one,” said Jam Jaffe, executive vile precedence at Novell. “Investors told us they wanted to indulge in the wealth that was built around Windows. Novell is also becoming the preferred patent troll for litigation strategies against companies which refuse to pay for imaginary property and unsubstantiated claims.”
Achievements to Date
Today Novell and Microsoft announced that 15 new customers, including SCO (Nasdaq: SCOX), have sought the services of the joint collaboration, whose potential in spreading fear is immense. “I have been looking for such opportunities for over 5 years,” said Darl McBride, whose expected departure was wrongly announced by the press in the month of February.
Novell concluded by assuring technical enthusiasts that their GNU/Linux* distribution will be stripped of most or all of Novell’s contributions to it, in order to avoid further legal damage and threat over frameworks such as Mono. “The hobbyists were not exactly what we needed at Novell anyway,” summarised Just in Stein at the press conference announcing this major development.
Novell, Inc. (Nasdaq: NOVL) delivers infrastructure software for the Patent-happy Enterprise. Novell is a leader in desktop to data center operating systems based on Ballnux and the software required to secure and manage mixed IT environments. Novell helps customers around the world minimize cost, complexity and risk, allowing them to focus on innovation and growth. For more information, visit www.novell.com.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in bribery, extortion and blackmail that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
Novell and SUSE are registered trademarks of Novell Inc. in the United States and other countries.
* Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds.
Hint for the baffled: I wasn’t really hired by Microsoft a year ago today.
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Spin it, Ron, spin it
It was pointed out just over a week ago that Novell had become somewhat of a Microsoft advertiser. It does a lot of Microsoft's PR, albeit by proxy, which makes it even more effective and credible. Here is a fine new example of this:
Novell chief: We helped Microsoft be more open
Novell had been struggling financially and failing to make much ground against open-source rival Red Hat. The deal that the company signed with Microsoft, which cost Novell some $40m (£20m), to avoid Suse customers being sued, meant that the two companies would promote each others products. Since then, Novell has realised a significant amount of revenue from being Microsoft’s Linux provider of choice and saw its sales in this area rise by 65 percent in the last quarter.
The article’s inaccuracies make it a tad tedious. To point out a few bit worth correcting/clarifying:
- In reality, Microsoft simply uses Novell to be seen as more open.
- Ron works for a company which claims it does "mixed-source" now. It is by no means a spokesman for anything “open”. One should not confuse Novell with FOSS or OSS.
- Novell massages the figures to fake or embellish growth of its Linux revenue. It would be unwise to blindly quote Novell’s overinflated claims of 65 percent growth in the Linux business.
- Mutual marketing agreements are funny because Microsoft continues to attack GNU/Linux while Novell advertises Windows. In many ways, it’s a one-way relationship and, in a sense, one might say that Hovsepian is Ballmer’s abused wife, who tolerates this mistreatment for cash.
- As for avoiding customers from being sued, the question to ask is: by whom? Novell has already been sued by the patent troll called Acacia, which has several links to Microsoft. The likes of Nathan Myhrvold are also to be watched out for. The protection is pointless at best (foolish morelike because it acknowledges legitimacy of patents), especially if Microsoft can sue by proxy.
The press must stop drinking the Redmond/Waltham Kool-Aid. █
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Many affected companies and organisations have already responded to Microsoft’s ‘kind’ taxoperability offer and their angle was similar. The same goes for OOXML’s ‘kind’ promise, which ‘coincidentally’ or ‘accidentally’ excludes Microsoft's #1 threat. The SFLC finally steps up and articulates the problem in a formal announcement.
There has been much discussion in the free software community and in the press about the inadequacy of Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML) as a standard, including good analysis of some of the shortcomings of Microsoft’s Open Specification Promise (OSP), a promise that is supposed to protect projects from patent risk. Nonetheless, following the close of the ISO-BRM meeting in Geneva, SFLC’s clients and colleagues have continued to express uncertainty as to whether the OSP would adequately apply to implementations licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). In response to these requests for clarification, we publicly conclude that the OSP provides no assurance to GPL developers and that it is unsafe to rely upon the OSP for any free software implementation, whether under the GPL or another free software license.
“The whole thing is orchestrated as to deceive as much as possible, earning Microsoft trust while promising the least possible.”Of course, by this stage (time of the response to the announcements), the press had already been ‘poisoned’ by various articles which praise Microsoft for ‘openness’ and fair play. This type of publicity stunt, which includes previous promises of a “big announcement” to come, are no coincidence. The whole thing is orchestrated as to deceive as much as possible, earning Microsoft trust while promising the least possible.
It becomes very clear that Microsoft, which would be in debt if it acquired Yahoo], resorts to the only weapon it has left and available — software patents. Only hours ago we showed how vile this whole arena of software suits had become. Here comes another brand-new report about Apple getting sued by a patent troll.
Apple sued over iTunes technology
Atlanta-based ZapMedia Services Inc. sued Apple in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, accusing the Cupertino-based company of violating two ZapMedia patents.
It is time to step up and:
- Fight software patents
- Call Microsoft’s ‘promises’ what they are. They are patent poison pills.
Other urgent matters might be the eradication of time bombs Microsoft and Novell are happily planting while taking cover in an undergroud shelter (patent deal). For all it seems, Novell and Microsoft are working together against common rivals and this happens to include all Linux vendors other than Novell. How long before this jilted Microsoft partner (Novell’s own description of the relationship, as seen also here and elaborated on here) truly just becomes Microsoft’s ‘Linux department’? It’s already taking orders from Redmond. █
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“I saw that internally inside Microsoft many times when I was told to stay away from supporting Mono in public. They reserve the right to sue”
–Robert Scoble, former Microsoft evangelist
A few hours ago we mentioned de Icaza's very telling confession. He knows that Novell acted selfishly. He is also aware of the implications of using Mono (he knew this all along). One of our readers, Woods, had the following useful pointer to add.
Microsoft indemnifies Novell Moonlight users
“We should have stayed with the open source community,” de Icaza said but added: “That’s better than saying we might be infringing but we are going to stick it to the man… I think we’ve done as well as we could.”
Note the defeatism. Elsewhere on the Web, in PC Authority in fact, Microsoft’s Novell-style and Novell-inspired taxoperability program receives a closer look. For a change, a respectable publication does not blindly praise Microsoft for opening up. It acknowledges that a patent trap exists therein.
Microsoft’s patent pledge is perhaps more worrying. It has promised not to assert patent claims against developers working on open-source projects, but the cover does not apply to commercial distributors of those projects, so distributors like Red Hat are still very much at threat. In broader terms, it undermines one of the basic tenants of open-source — that the user can, within the licence requirements, do whatever they like with the software — since the user is only free from the threat of patent claims until they start charging money.
Ultimately, Microsoft’s sincerity is in question, with many speculating that its true motives remain hidden. If Microsoft is genuine, only consistent good deeds will counter its history and silence the critics.
Judging by the latest news, there is no consistency in good deeds. Either Microsoft back-stabbed de Icaza (exploited him) or he knowingly did what just brought him large sums of money (wealth triumphs freedom). █
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There are many new articles at a moment (e.g. these earlier ones) which talk about Microsoft increasing its patent-filing pace. You are encouraged to keep in mind that Microsoft’s latest strategy against GNU/Linux revolves around software patents. The Halloween Documents considered this an option as an attack plan (among others like SCO other-type action, i.e. copyrights). It is therefore important to keep track of companies that sign patent deals with Microsoft. This includes JVC which, despite the fact that its Microsoft cross-licensing deal mentions nothing about Linux, is helping fuel fear and acknowledge patents. JVC and Funai have just teamed up and that’s worth keeping in mind for future reference.
Japanese consumer electronics makers Victor Co. of Japan and Funai Electric will jointly develop and supply LCD television sets, an industry source said on Tuesday.
Patent TrollTracker has been receiving a lot of attention recently (including hacking attempts) and s/he keeps good track of Acacia and other patent trolls in the United States. There’s little — albeit some — hope on the horizon.
On another note, Michael Martin has a post on the pending patent reform in the Senate. He explains why the proposed reforms could help solve the problem of patent thickets. He even backs off his earlier conclusion that damages apportionment may be disastrous for the emerging market for ideas.
In other patent news (via Digital Majority):
Business Standard: Infosys to increase patent filings
Infosys Technologies Limited, the country’s second largest IT company, expects patent filings to increase with its primary R&D centre, Software Engineering and Technology Labs (SETLabs), expanding the scope of research to new areas.
The patent Armageddon in telecommunications continues: Sprint sues for VoIP patent infringements
Sprint has also gone to court, claiming 15 infringements of their patented VoIP technology by several small providers, Nuvox Communications, BroadVOX Holdings, Big River Telephone and Paetec Communications.
What is the point of these mutual lawsuits (other than lawyers' welfare? Should there not be peace, or the system be trashed for encouraging nothing but mutual destruction? The small guys are being sued also: Sprint sues little guys over VoIP patents
Following up on its $80 million settlement from its Vonage lawsuit last year, Sprint is milking its 115 VoIP patents by suing NuVox Communications, Broadvox Holdings, Big River Telephone and Paetec Communications.
Welcome to the 21st century — the age where own-able knowledge is so organic that everything and everyone can be sued. █
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“We do NOT want to ship the ’standard’ with Windows because we want to make the native APIs more attractive. We want to evolve the standard APIs rapidly, and not have ISVs [independent software vendors] spending time on something that is cross-platform. “
–Chairman Bill Gates (CEO at the time)
The previous post covered some of the latest news about software patents. More on this fiasco can be found here. We said we would return to the possible issues with the Mandriva-Turbolinux collaboration (Manbo), if there are any at all (we never suggested this. but Groklaw did).
Here is what Mandriva’s CEO had to say in response to those who are worried.
Our recent announcement concerning the creation of a joint lab with Turbolinux has generated some controversy. Even PJ, from Groklaw, a site we like very much at Mandriva, showed some concerns and signaled her intention to stop using our Distro.
He alleviates many of the doubts, which is reassuring. It gives a cozy feeling, but be sure to see Brian Proffitt’s skepticism, as well. He actually corresponded with Mandriva’s CEO.
I wrote back: “I’m trying to understand how logistically this will work. Is there some sort of ‘clean room’ in place to keep Mandriva developers from seeing any Turbolinux code that might fall under the alleged Microsoft patents or any code that Microsoft may have directly contributed to Turbolinux?”
“The 10 or so engineers working in Manbo Labs have no access to any of the Turbo technology that is not is the lab scope. And everything in that scope is GPL,” Banchilon replied.
Not content with explaining it just to me, Banchilon reiterated these technical aspects, with more detail, on the Mandriva blog today. Specifically, he indicated what the scope of Manbo Labs would be:
- The scope of work is about 100 low-level RPMs, all in GPL
- Product will be available for public release under GPL
- Development is public, made on our Cooker environment and associates the community
Is that enough to assuage the fears of the community? Hopefully so. I think the two companies need to help each other technically and it sounds as if Mandriva is taking care not to get involved in Microsoft’s shenanigans.
It’s a matter to trust. Mandriva has not compromised their values before, and I think that’s earned them the benefit of the doubt.
The Mandriva situation came about at roughly the same time as the JVC-Microsoft patent deal. They were announced almost simultaneously. Sadly enough, some other sources are still spreading doubt and create unnecessary drama. Microsoft’s Bink, for example, writes about Microsoft’s average of 250 patents per month:
However, the company [Microsoft] also begun a broad intellectual property licensing push several years ago, under which it licenses technology to many companies big and small. The company has signed a slew of patent cross licensing deals since then, the most recent being Tuesday’s deal with Japan’s JVC.
Trolling through filings can offer a glimpse of where a company is headed, but as with Apple’s closely watched patent filings, seeing something in a patent application is far from a guarantee of what will eventually ship.
What was more annoying is shrewdly-crafted disinformation/FUD from InformationWeek’s Paul McDougal, which resulted in headlines like this one: Microsoft profits from Linux again, easier than improving Windows Vista
While that may be true, the above statement is made in reference to the JVC deal, despite the fact that there is no evidence of Linux being involved. Over the line? Well, we looked at JVC before. Judge for yourselves and do not rely on fear mongers. █
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“Other than Bill Gates, I don’t know of any high tech CEO that sits down to review the company’s IP portfolio.”
“If seems unfortunate if we do this work and get our partners to do the work and the result is that Linux works great without having to do the work. Maybe there is no way Io avoid this problem but it does bother me. Maybe we can define the APIs so that they work well with NT and not the others even if they are open. Or maybe we could patent something related to this.”
A somewhat notorious blogger from the Wall Street Journal (Ben Worthen) has taken a break from his endless Microsoft praises and turned his attention to IBM.
This isn’t necessarily a sign that innovation is slowing. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced recently that it has a backlog of 1,112,517 patent applications. To put that number in perspective, the USPTO approved a total of 157,284 patents in 2007.
Now, that’s a lot. But wait! Look who is among the biggest customers.
Microsoft, which once was only a modest customer of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, has been one of its biggest customers in recent years.
If you have not read the quotes at the top of this post, you are advised to do so now.
The latest cross-licensing deal with JVC does not mention Linux. Paul McDougal is just trying to scare you at the moment, so you are encouraged not to listen to him. That’s just what InformationWeek does -- it spreads Linux FUD.
Let’s quickly look again at Microsoft’s plan for handling of Linux — its biggest of threats for about a decade:
- Impose a tax on Linux distribution so that the price of Linux is elevated, Linux is made less attractive (hello, Windows) and Microsoft enjoys a revenue stream from products that it never developed.
- Brag about patents and repeatedly claim that Linux infringes on a set of unspecified patents. This scares potential Linux takers who think about long-term “obligations”. It’s just another SCO, to put it in simple terms.
- And then there are other factors to consider such as OOXML, Silverlight and other patent-protected technologies which Microsoft strives to make widespread and unavoidable.
The only way to combat Microsoft’s attempt to penalise or ‘illegalise’ Linux is to understand what it Microsoft trying to achieve and how so. █
Image from Wikimedia
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The part which is worth paying careful attention to is this: “the parties said that Microsoft is receiving compensation from JVC.”
Here is the full (yet surprisingly short) press release:
Microsoft, JVC Agree To Patent Cross-Licensing Pact
January 15, 2008: 08:23 PM EST
DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Victor Company of Japan Ltd. agreed to a patent cross-licensing deal for the further development of each company’s current and future product lines.
Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but the parties said that Microsoft is receiving compensation from JVC.
Microsoft, a Redmond, Wash., software company, said the agreement strengthens the long-term collaborative relationship between the two companies.
Shares in Microsoft continued to slide after hours, recently trading down $ 1.09 after closing down 1.1%, or 39 cents, at $34 in active trading.
-Adam O. Manzor; 201-938-5400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
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Update: In case you require some context and further information, Paul Krill has it. If you try Web search queries of interest, you will probably fail to see much evidence that JVC builds products with Linux.
Update #2: A more comprehensive press release can be found here.
Update #3: A source that it not so credible adds: “Among other things, JVC uses Linux in its streaming video networking gear.”
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