07.12.11

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As Microsoft is Losing, Expect a Lot More Patent-Flavoured FUD Against Linux

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 1:15 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft’s (and Apple’s) patent attack on Google/Android is not working

Summary: A look at the patent attacks from Microsoft and why they have not been as effective as Microsoft and its lobbyists wish us to believe (for FUD factor)

In a decent blog post from Christine Hall she explains that Microsoft has become a patent threat not just to Android. It had already signed deals like the one with Novell in order to create what Christine (of FOSS Force) calls the “Microsoft Tax on Linux Devices”. To quote:

The desktop and laptop might be safe, for the time being, but now the evil empire has dug its talons into the mobile world. It’s becoming nigh near impossible to purchase a device running Android or Chrome OS without a hidden Microsoft tax, and the makers of smartphones and tablets probably won’t be offering devices with no operating system installed in the near future, for those of us who’d prefer to install our own OS and skip having any of our money shipped to MS.

The new Microsoft tax is in the form of patent licenses that OEMs are being blackmailed into paying by the Microsoft folks. Yep, MS is finally making good on its promises to enforce the patents it claims are being violated by Linux by going after the makers of devices running Android (and now, evidently, Chrome OS). Does Microsoft actually hold valid patents being infringed by Android? Who knows? That would be for the courts to decide and, so far, nothing’s gone to court. OEMs are just ponying up and buying MS licenses on the strength of Microsoft threats. So much so that Redmond is evidently making more money on Android than on Windows Phone 7.

Here in this site we have been keeping an up-to-date list of companies that pay Ballmer for the ‘right’ to sell products with Linux. We urge people to avoid those companies and send out the message that taking this shameful route is unwise for business. Companies tend to consider what’s good for business, not what’s good for ethics, although poor ethics sometimes — provided public awareness — affect business.

Microsoft is clearly failing to sell its products, so when it cannot ram them down people’s throats (as it does by bribing colleges and offering kickbacks to OEMs) it will try to make money from the competition’s sales. If someone still believes that Microsoft is doing alright against Linux, share this this new article from a ‘news’ site paid by Microsoft. It quotes Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer as saying that “In a year, we’ve gone from very small to [...] very small.”

Hilarious.

“Google’s Android operating system remains No. 1 in the U.S.,” notes the Microsoft-sympathetic reporter, “while Windows Phone lost ground, according to the latest comScore report. The Windows Phone 7 launch last fall has not stopped Android’s rise. Microsoft had almost 8 percent of the U.S. market in the past three months, down 1 percent…”

Mr. Pogson notes that among the big players that sell Android devices Microsoft has gotten just about nobody to pay for unnamed patents, except HTC. To quote:

The Open Handset Alliance has 20 members who make handsets: Acer, Alcatel, ASUS, CCI, Dell, FoxConn, Garmen, Haier, HTC, Huawei, Kyocera, Lenovo, LG, Motorola, NEC, Samsung, Sharp, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and ZTE.

Several manufacturers using Android have entered licensing agreements with M$: Wistron, HTC, General Dynamics Itronix, Velocity Micro, and Onkyo. M$ is reported to be demanding $15 a copy for Android/Linux from Samsung and Barnes and Noble has gone to court over the issue. It is interesting that M$ has apparently secured royalty payments around $5 per copy while demanding $15. Thus it seems that some are paying M$ to go away. Others will fight.

Microsoft is mostly going after those without incentive to fight back. It uses software patents against them, rather than offer them something like Windows. That alone speaks volumes. Pogson ends by adding:

Making software is not a creative act and software patents are not stimulating innovation, it would seem. Software is a data structure and an algorithm, nothing more nor less. Once the information in the specification of those two elements is defined, the software follows and it can be created by almost any programmer skilled in the art. Thus, it fails non-obviousness. The information in the specification of the data structure and algorithm is not patentable, being merely an idea without physical embodiment. Putting software in a computer may give it physical embodiment but it is still obvious how it works when one looks at the source code.

Here is another noteworthy new article:

And don’t cry for Microsoft. While its new mobile OS rise has yet to be a rise at all, the company is making money on–get this–Android patent enforcement. That is, by dint of its thousands of software patents, Microsoft has succeeded in getting the likes of HTC to pay license fees, and now it’s going after Samsung. Cue the jokes about blue screens of death in outer space.

In a research note, Wells Fargo estimated Windows Phone 7 revenue of $500 million in 2011; and more than $1 billion for Android licenses in 2012 if it charged $10 per license.

Microsoft continues destroying the software industry, substituting it with lawyers and ruthless businessmen. It is not just bad for developers, it is bad for everyone (who sees product prices elevated due to bureaucracy fees/costs). The word “innovation” lost its meaning (we covered this recently and even years ago) and now it is used to justify decreased competition, retarded products (which have features removed due to patents), and increased collusion (which is a form of crime that regulators rarely address because it is done by corporations to people rather than the other way around).

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8 Comments

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    July 12, 2011 at 1:39 pm

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    Correction: ruthless -> clueless

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Or both.

  2. twitter said,

    July 13, 2011 at 3:01 am

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    I thought Samsung had been extorted too. I’m glad to see they might fight back. Paying off one troll won’t keep the others from suing. Cooperation only makes things worse by reducing the money available to fight and limiting the technical merit of devices. Samsung phones, according to friends and family, are junk. This is probably because they let Microsoft tell them how to make it.

    What Microsoft actually thinks of software patents and this plan they have had for more than a decade can be seen in my Microsoft Software Patent Extortion Timeline. It is obvious from the things Microsoft executives have said that the lawsuits are all about crushing competition.

    The US DOJ has been asleep at the wheel for years but need to get to work.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Samsung agreed to pay Microsoft for something “Linux-related” back in 2007. We do not know the specifics because it was deliberately kept vague, but perhaps Android does not fall under the same umbrella (or maybe not to the degree that Microsoft wants).

    twitter Reply:

    The first part of an effective defense, it seems, is to not sign the NDA. Barnes and Noble did this and what they have to say is explosive.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    But who will convict now?

    Needs Sunlight Reply:

    Because paying off one troll won’t keep the others from suing or even keep the same troll from suing again, money needs to be spent on revoking the patentability of software.

    Google was willing to spend near to $4 billion to acquire a few patents. Would it be willing to spend a similar amount to ensure that they never need to worry about patents again? Since Andriod is a big target how about a consortium of the companies that use Android pooling resources to neutralize the patent threat for good?

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Google would need to justify this to shareholders and to well paid patent lawyers that Google hired (people who would rather prolong the agony, for cash).

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