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Signs That Microsoft Might Prepare for 'Patent Terror' Against Rival Office Suites

"What we're seeing though now can be loosely described as patent terrorism, where people are using their patent horde as a threat [...] It's almost like a cold war stand over tactic; where I have these patents and if you breach these patents, I'm going to come after you and sue you."

--James Eagleton, systems product manager for Sun Microsystems



Summary: Signs of increased patent aggression in Microsoft's behaviour amid sinking profits

With OpenOffice.org 3.2 coming quite soon, not to mention the ODF Workshop, Microsoft has many reasons to worry about its biggest cash cow. Microsoft seems to be dealing with rival office suites in the same way it deals with GNU/Linux: FUD, patents, and litigation, in that order. Microsoft has already moved beyond smearing or belittling Apps and OpenOffice.org. Having already made vague patent accusations against OpenOffice.org back in 2007, Microsoft is now collecting patents on word processing.



At the same time that Microsoft was pushing for the adoption of an XML-based file format for documents, it had a patent pending that would cover most uses of XML for word processing files.


This is an issue that was covered some days ago [1, 2] and also a few months ago in:



Michael Tiemann speaks about Microsoft's latest RAND traps [1, 2] (patent royalties).

Glynn Moody writes an insightful analysis of Microsoft's latest attempt to confuse the issue of open standards by throwing a new word into the mix: balance. It didn't fool Glynn, and it shouldn't fool you, either.

In the final analysis, the question of what is an open standard, and how governments and free markets should police the claims of those who purport to offer open standards should never come down to a question of rhetoric. An open standard should never depend on what the definition of "is" is. Rather, there is plenty of room for those who are honest to say "X is a proprietary standard, dependent on restrictive technologies that must be licensed for a fee" and for others who are equally honest when they say "Y is an open standard, dependent on a variety of technologies, all of which can be practiced royalty free". And if we believe that free markets can make intelligent decisions based on fair information, market participants can choose which offering is most attractive to them and the best will come to all.


With that in mind, Tiemann and the OSI should be aware that Microsoft is trying to appeal to FOSS projects while it's suing GNU/Linux vendors. Microsoft uses lawsuits against vulnerable Linux-distributing companies that surrender and let Windows be publicly perceived as 'safer'. RAND is part of this plot, which Microsoft may later try to use as a suppressor of OpenOffice.org adoption.

In a bid to increase their support for open source technology, Microsoft (News - Alert) has announced the addition of SugarCRM Community Edition for free download on the Windows Web App Gallery.

[...]

In November 2006 TMC reported that SugarCRM had announced its membership in the Interop Vendor Alliance with Microsoft.


Going back to office suites, they already appear to be marketing Microsoft Office with pseudo ODF 'support' [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] over at Wikipedia [1, 2]. Another vector of competition happens to be the Web (SaaS) and not only Google Apps or Zoho are out there looking to poach users. Evermore is moving there as well. From the news:

Chinese Microsoft Office Rival Launching on Web Soon



A Chinese company that offers a rival suite to Microsoft Office is following industry trends by turning its software into a Web-based service.

Evermore Software, based in the eastern Chinese city of Wuxi, has for years offered a software suite that looks very similar to Microsoft Office but costs less. Now the company sees its rivals moving online, and it is designing a Web version of its suite to compete with the likes of Google Docs and Microsoft's upcoming Office Web apps.


Some of Microsoft's acquired patents may also apply to Web-based office suites. Is Microsoft preparing to 'pull a SCO' in desparate attempts to defend its aging cash cow?

Cash cow



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