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The Great Microsoft Innovation Lie (and Software Patent News)

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants," Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

Microsoft Innovation



Progress in development is cumulative, but for selfish reasons, some people pretend it ain't so. "Innovation" has always been Microsoft's principal buzzword and also justification (excuse) for deviating from standards. One Halloween Document reveals that Microsoft saw itself needing to "innovate" above standards in order to deny entry of Free software into the market (covered previously in [1, 2]).



Microsoft has been a master of hypocrisy in several different areas. In practice, the company seems to have invented very little. It just mass-marketed existing ideas, often leading to the illusion that it was an original creator due to wide distribution. Ideas needn't be correlated to reach and media exposure though.

“It just mass-marketed existing ideas, often leading to the illusion that it was an original creator due to wide distribution.”As an example of this, consider Microsoft Surface. The idea was far from original. A reader has just sent us a pointer to Comes Vs. Microsoft exhibit 7278 [PDF] (mirror [PDF]). It's quite fascination what you can find in several thousands of pages. In this antitrust exhibit (exposed briefly over a year ago), you can find out where Microsoft gets its ideas from. Remember that Microsoft settled the case to hide all of this damning material, but we are fortunate to have retained copies.

The person who sent us this pointer summarised it thusly: "See Microsoft innovate Avalon by downloading the Apple SDK."

We have grabbed off the PDF just a portion of the text (quite a few E-mails are contained therein, but OCRing is laborious because of the poor quality of the scan). This text is a message which was sent to the most senior Windows managers (all of whom recently left or retired, Will Poole being the last one just about a month ago). As Jim Allchin sighs at the following, you must realise why he said he would choose a Mac had he not worked at Microsoft.




From: Vic Gundotra Sent: Wednesday, 3une 30, 2004 8:29 AM To: Jim Allchin; Brian Valentine; Will Poole; Joe Peterson Cc: Sanjay Pathasarathy; Charles Fitzgerald Subject: RE: tiger

Steve is trying hard to retain the developers he has left.

He showed "spotlight" functionality embedded in 4 different apps, then highlighted that developers can build (and should build) the same functionality in their apps,

I have SDK - will send to Quentin

They even showed a bit of extensibility in their design.

I don’t have details, but at first blush, I think they will be there 80% on developer platform too.

€° Their Avalon competitor (core video, core image) was hot - lots of transparency, ripple effects, etc Ì„€° I have the coot widgets (dashboard) running on my Mac right now with all the effects he showed on stage. I’ve had no crashes in 5 hours. €° Their video conferencing was amazing (you have to see a demo), €° They have no indigo/web services story €° They are betting on RSS in a high profile way - so they will get credit for this too €° They have "agent" like software - I have it working on my Mac as of last night. It’s very cool scripting software for the entire system. You should see a demo of this - Jobs does it in his keynote €° I’ve enclosed a screen shot from Lenn of using Spotlight against locally cached exchange data. (You can point the built in mail client against an exchange server. The mail is copied down locally, and then "spotlight" works against it wickedly fast)

Video of Job’s talk is here: http://stream.apple.akadns.net/

The bits we deliver in Sept 05 PDC must be compelling, even in beta form. UI must be hot. We will be directly compared against tiger.

-vicg




Another fine examples of Microsoft 'innovation'. Again, no wonder Allchin wanted to buy a Mac and said that Microsoft "must rise to the challenge of Linux." This is just one example among many more, but it's not a topic that we focus on in this Web site. The take-home message is that Microsoft wants to world to believe that Microsoft offers original ideas rather than copycats. Here is a classic:

"Hey, Steve [Jobs], just because you broke into Xerox’s store before I did and took the TV doesn’t mean I can’t go in later and steal the stereo."

--Bill Gates, Microsoft



Many people still believe that Microsoft is the 'mastermind' and genius behind the GUI, the word processor, the spreadsheet, etc.

Let's look at some news, shall we?

Microsoft and Software Patents



Microsoft seems to have just downed itself when it applied for nothing less than a behavioural patent applied in software.

Microsoft patent brings Miss Manners into the digital age



Cell phones may be nearly ubiquitous in today's world, but the number of people who have adopted proper cell phone etiquette (or gadget etiquette in general) often seems to be far smaller. Microsoft has filed for a patent (patent application 2008/125,102) on technology it feels could address such situations via the use of what the company refers to as a "digital manners policy," or DMP for short.


We last wrote about the Yahoo-Microsoft situation just a few days ago. Here is an analysis of the intellectual monopoly assets Microsoft may be after. [via Digital Majority]

While Microsoft is undeniably the leader in terms of sheer number of patents/applications spread across over 100 IPCs (international patent classification codes), it has possibly lagged when compared to Yahoo! and Google in terms of innovation. Yahoo! emerges as a significant innovative player in this regard, probably more so than even Google. Given this scenario, Microsoft’s potential acquisition of Yahoo! would definitely prop up its IP arsenal against its battle for technology supremacy against Google.


Lastly, on the same topic, there is this roundup or at least a quick status report about the Microsoft-Avistar case [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

Patent Office now completes Microsoft's review for patent re-examination of complete Avistar U.S. patent portfolio - Quick facts



[...]

Commenting on this, the company said it continues to expect that the remaining 10 patents will be validated, through re-examination process. The company also said that it continue to remain focused on business operations and have no further comment at this time regarding impact of these recent USPTO actions on patent discussions.


This battle has so far illustrated the drainage of energy and needlessness of such legal action. It could cost Avistar its life. Remember SCO?

How Patents Failed



With too broad a scope, the USPTO has certainly lost sight of its original objective. The sad state of the patent system has not only caused harm to many, but it even brought an entire new book, which is reviewed and thus promoted by Red Hat Magazine, which was recently forced to settle with trolls.

Patent Failure examines the current state of the American patent system based on the way it has traditionally been treated–as a type of property system. Using the yardstick of property rights and the economics they influence, Bessen and Meurer analyze the costs and benefits of patents to innovators. Their qualification: “If the estimated costs of the patent system to an innovator exceed the estimated benefits, then patents fail as property.”


As more proof of the sad state the patent system, watch the figure at the bottom of this new blog post.

How were people able to build beds with a headboard without paying royalties between 1969 and 1983?


Lastly, here is an article which speaks about patent trolls gaining sophistication. [via Linux Today]

When you're driving down the highway and you see a spotless white tanker truck with a big green tree painted on the side, you can be pretty sure that it's full of hazardous waste.

Likewise, companies with "innovation" in their names are generally innovation-hostile patent trolls. The problem isn't just that they file for obvious patents, or patents on things that someone else already invented, but that they drag the enormous transaction costs of the patent system into the flexible world of software, where transaction costs are low.

[...]

By now, even the Mainstream Media is safely aware of the need to get rid of software patents. When a Cato Institute scholar is writing an anti-software-patent op-ed for the New York Times, you can't get much more Mainstream than that.


There is a reference there at the end to immortal admissions from Chairman Gates himself. He truly forgot where he came from.

"If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today."

--Bill Gates

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