Windows 8

Microsoft dips back into the realm of evil with its trusty patent trolling

Microsoft has dusted off their tried and true patent portfolio and taken up Mafia-like bullying once again. The on again, off again love affair with open source is, seemingly, off again. Jack Wallen has his say.

Ah the roller coaster that is Microsoft. The up again, down again support for Linux and open source. One minute they are opening their minds to forming a new branch of their company to further open source, the next they are creating a "secure boot" system that will cost companies like Red Hat just to allow them to boot up their operating system. And now -- now -- they drop a lead straw on a fairly fragile camel's back. That straw?

Patent trolling.

That's right. After posting their first ever revenue loss, Microsoft takes a page out of the SCO book and decides it's time to go after patents -- in the form of patent protection. Their first "taker", Amdocs Software Systems. This company is ponying up the money to license patents from Microsoft in order to gain "mutual access to each company’s patent portfolio". A nice little give and take.

But there's something else going on here.

Microsoft must be seeing the writing on the white board. Companies are already proclaiming Windows 8 a catastrophe. Open source is gaining momentum on numerous levels, and Microsoft is now leveraging everything they can to ensure that a catastrophic failure on the part of Windows 8 won't doom them. Even to the tune of SCO-like tactics.

The proprietary juggernaut was busying itself bullying mobile device manufacturers like HTC, but now, Microsoft is holding the knife to the throat to the server landscape. Since 2007 Microsoft has laid claim to over 235 patent infringements to their precious portfolio. During that time SCO made a similar claim and lost in a blaze of embarrassing fury. Since 2007, no proof has ever risen from these claims and as Microsoft has been unwilling to make public the infringements, I would imagine nothing will come of it now. So, what does that mean?

Money grab.

When a large company posts a loss, something has to give. Large scale cutbacks are made, benefits are trimmed, etc. But in the case of Microsoft, patent lawsuits are dusted off and made ready for the court. Or, better yet, dust off that suit of holier-than-though protectorate armor that one wears when they want others to feel protected from the inevitable law suit.

But think about it...what this really boils down to is little more than Mafia-level bullying. You pay us a fee and we will protect you from us.

Isn't there a legal term for that? And shouldn't it be illegal?

Microsoft really just needs to get over this. So they posted a loss -- everyone eventually does. And so what if Windows 8 lays a rotten egg so foul it will make Windows ME look like OS X? They'll recover (so long as the XBox doesn't epic fail).

I would love to see a company look Microsoft in the eye and say, "No, we don't need your protection from your patent law suits because they won't hold up in court." At some point, someone will do just that and when they do, the court room brawl will be a yawn fest that no one will care about. In the end, Microsoft will lose and they'll fold up their bag of tricks and tuck them away for another rainy day on Wall Street.

Microsoft, I'd like to introduce you to a friend of mine. High Road, meet Microsoft. Microsoft, meet High Road. Why don't the two of you get to know each other for a while?

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

47 comments
lsatenstein
lsatenstein

One of the major problems for any top dog, is that you can only remain top dog for a short time. The Desktop with Windows 7 can endure for 25 years. At the office we still have Windows XP, as our 32 bit testing platform. Banks and industry do not rely on "iconized windows facing the user with a gui picklist", as one finds on a cellphone, it relies on menus, and most often on a very limited set of software. For a business. The software is MS Office suite, FireFox, MS anti-virus protection, and a customized set of one or two applications (example, for small business, an accounting package and CRM, for other small businesses, an ERP package to handle manufacturing and distribution). But these are all available for free with Linux, There are two competing but compatible office suites (Openoffice and LibreOffice), and with those, you do not need MS Office. Other free stuff are the two thousand or more games, and three thousand business applications, from ERP, to website hosting to firewalls to statistical packages to email servers and more. In the past, the argument was, "We need support", and is open source really that good?" The answer many times is, yes, it is, and in most cases, it is better than closed source. You may download the sources, if you are a worry bug. Because of closed source practices by Sun, MS, and others, the universities turned to "Open Source" for operating systems, compilers and database systems. Students learn about Linux, and all the ins-and outs of this mature product. And when they come to market after graduation, these graduates are there to provide outstanding non-MS product and system support. With your market eroding, with your being 18 months late for your own tablet, and with the full recognition that MS is saying, any software sold for our W8 platform must be sold via our app store, vendors are saying in polite words, "Time for a change Microsoft". Android and Linux are our where our clients are. Your tablet is too late, your forcing of sales commissions, coupled with your own non-free software may be ok for the rich corporation, you must note that your tablet is not being used for corporations, and altogether, we are not interested. There are a limited number of ways to perform some algorithm, and MS has tried to patent these alternatives. But an algorithm is like algebra, you can rearrange the sequence of the variables, and claim a new patent. Sorry, in the end it is an algebra expression in software. Microsoft, your trolling is going to deplete your cash reserves, and it did to SCO. You might possibly win in court, but your cash recovery will be less than your costs. To remain in business you must innovate, you must develop a new product that everyone wants, or else your a chapter in a history book. So, join me in wishing MS success in business and failure in trolling.

danerd
danerd

we can hope that someone will see that what microsoft is attempting to do in relation to windows 8 lockdown and slap microsoft on the wrist for stifling competion, as for protecting their patents i suppose they have a right to protect their property so long as its not to petty and as you pointed out,its the law makers that we have to worry about.

danerd
danerd

because this forum is about patent trolling, but it just shows microsoft for what it ( they ) are, what really concerns me is when all the old pcs die i wont be able to install the operating system of my choice because of the lockdown that could be implemented by windows 8 ( microsoft ) and if microsoft gets away with it it will be a sad day because the only choice we will have is apple or windows and god knows what one will have to do if you want to run linux or anything else. its scary that microsoft could actually do this.

apotheon
apotheon

QUOTE: Isn't there a legal term for that? And shouldn't it be illegal? Yes, there's a legal term for it. It's called "patent law" (and yes, it should be illegal, but instead it's the law). The term you were probably trying to think of is "protection racket". Patent law is the legal framework for this kind of protection racket, though.

The Management consultant
The Management consultant

I agree with the BSC Consulting Group.It was forecast sometime ago that the long term decline could not be halted by MS inexperienced CEO who should have been replaced last year. Perhaps like HTC's CEO never had the skills to be appointed at the outset. As for the investors? MS needs to be broken up it is clearly uncompetitive,lacking innovation,growth prospects, and is using really desperate attempts to hold back really fundamental structural reforms in the business.Most analysts consider MS has now lost the industry standard private monopoly and should start looking at reinventing itself under a new experienced CEO from more competitive trading markets like Europe. MS needs to move fast, analyst think the CEO replacement will be sought from outside MS as early as September 2012. The business model within the MS culture has been proven to be uncompetitive as the shareholders at Nokia have found out.

T3CHN0M4NC3R
T3CHN0M4NC3R

I haven't been around long enough, but I certainly know for sure that something's changing now and will likely cause a barrage of chain reactions. Patent trolling, I don't know, somehow Apple has been quite successful in it, correct me if I'm wrong.

danerd
danerd

the sooner steam get with linux the better, apple makes its own hardware so they are free to put their own software on it, microsoft ( correct me if i am wrong ) only make software so where do they get off telling hardware makers what to do. this attempt at locking windows 8 to all makers of hardware smells of anti-competion, i mean its like ford motor company telling me that i MUST use shell petrol only, hell where are the legal people when you want them . this should be nipped in the bud NOW.

Gisabun
Gisabun

... That this is coming from a "blogger" who writes mostly about open source stuff [in an open source forum] and when he writes something about Microsoft or Windows it is either anti-Microsoft or anti-Windows or something rediculously stupid that anyone who uses Windows would know easily. Very biased indeed. Microsoft is protecting their patents just like any other company - big or small. Some open source users just want to get everything for free [aside from a free OS]. If a company spent possibly millions on something new, why should they just give it away. Are others too lazy to invent something on their own? [Granted - sas far as I'm concerned "look and feel" like the iPad vs Samsung tablets are rediculous.]

alzie
alzie

Ive seen this over many decades, companies get in trouble, and out come the lawyers. Saw this way back in the floppy wars of the 80s. IBM? A mere shadow of their former selves. M$ may survive, but theyll have to be satisfied with a way smaller piece of pie. They never change. I believe there is such a thing as corporate karma, and its coming back to bite them. Apple better watch out, too. Thats why i love open source. Very little of this corporate crap. I hate dictatorships.

jpgeek5704
jpgeek5704

Maybe we're a little too hard on MS. They are after all a business with stock holders and need to show a profit. Open Source will never be profitable but maybe if MS played with Open Source say better then Apple they would renew their reputation? Probably not. I still can't figure out why Apple is the darling child. Let me see propitiatory hardware and software. Apple's success in my eye's is all the APP's available, wait let me see, wasn't that MS strategy 20 years ago?

tarose.trevor
tarose.trevor

...what stuns me is that with so many communities & forums out there (like this one) discussing Microsoft... how is it that they miss all the brilliant suggestions & potential ideas coming for free from people who critique their software. They have no one to blame but themselves, because they clearly must think they know better than everyone else, and don't need to listen to advice... and what happens? I give you Windows 8. Hey Microsoft, it's easy... put your lawyers back in your pockets & LISTEN to the criticisms people make of your software... your profits lie in fixing those things, which: 1 - makes your software better & less annoying, 2 - fixes problems which stifle development by yourselves AND other parties, and trust me on this one, 3 - will inspire new ideas as you work through solving these problems PROPERLY instead of the lazy way you often go about it.

janitorman
janitorman

I agree, why buy from mobsters. Also, I don't see where MS should be allowed to force hardware vendors to use their product. They don't OWN the hardware like apple. I think the hardware vendors need to have a clear choice to install whatever OS the customer wants, be it Windows 2000, XP, 7, Ubuntu. Xubuntu, or some other one, and definitely NOT be forced to put Windows 8 on it because their "software partner" says they have to. With the huge drives now, in fact, maybe the hardware vendors could install multiple OS's from the get-go, say, a customizable Linux distro as first choice, then a Windows 7 option, and a mac alternative. All of these would, of course cost the hardware maker nothing. If MS then wanted to charge an activation fee to the CONSUMER for this pre-installed OS, that would be where they would make their precious profit. The hardware could sell for a lot less that way. On mobile devices this is a whole 'nother story because the hardware and software have to be tightly integrated. Maybe MS should drop the new desktop OS's they keep trying to push off on everyone and concentrate on the mobile market exclusively, in competition with other companies that do it better. The monopoly has to end. What's more, I think MS keeps changing things because patents EXPIRE after 7 years. ANYONE can use a patent after that time to build a product. SO going back 10 years or more to claim you had it first it pointless. (If this has changed it needs to change back.) This fosters innovation, while allowing people to use older technology without spending so much. OTHERWISE the first person to patent the wheel would still be the exclusive manufacturer of tires. Ridiculous, as are most things in the modern world.

droidfromsd
droidfromsd

Of course, M$ is the 800 lb gorilla so it draws a lot of heat. Frankly, I don't mind a patent holder asserting their ownership to their advantage. Even M$. Heck, where would we be without them? Stuck with Apple and BSD Unix? Please. Other posters have said that M$ should declare EXACTLY what is protected. True enough. They will not do so until their feet are held to the fire. Who is gonna do that? Motorola? Maybe but they will just chose to work around activesync. As any breathing rational person already knows the patent/judicial system is broken. Who is gonna fix it? Congress? Hahahahahahahahaha

emenau
emenau

if you give them a finger they take the whole hand, and the squeeze never stops. Boycott everything that has Microsoft inside. EVERYTHING. And also everyone who is friends with them (Including Apple), and even the brand of cola they drink. Never buy goods from a criminal...

sonicsteve
sonicsteve

I have to say that I think Windows 8 is horrible also. Maybe good for tablets but not for desktops. Now patent trolling again. Microsoft just warms the cockles of my heart, the loving thoughts are welling up inside me. The Justice systems has to do something about these software patents, it's monster that needs to be slain.

lord_beavis
lord_beavis

Does M$ own them and using them as the "example" for others?

lstuart
lstuart

Sounds like they are following in Apple's footsteps and should start filing in every country that will let them. Maybe some one will agree with them at some point.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

as their track record in court on patent and copyright litigation shows they lose a lot more than they win, and when they lose they payout more than they ever collect in winning. But it could be just a protection scheme of threats with menaces as you suggest may be the case. The interesting thing is if the big game makers do move away from Windows and DirectX to Open Standards then a very big hole in the Microsoft activities to create vendor lock-in begins to form and threaten the MS intent along those lines.

QAonCall
QAonCall

This is an article for the Onion right?

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Microsoft was after back in the mid 1990s, total vendor lock-in - at that time he called the project Palladium and it got shot down. Since then they've been bringing it in by stealth, one little screw up at a time. They use the guise of security as justification for what they do, yet do nothing about fixing the security holes in the underlying code of Windows; and that tells you EXACTLY how little they care about true security.

apotheon
apotheon

For purposes of MS Windows, it's roughly true that Microsoft doesn't "make" hardware (using Apple's example of a company that "makes" hardware -- though Apple actually pays someone else to do it, and just sticks a logo on the hardware). There are (largely irrelevant, for these purposes) exceptions, though. For instance, Microsoft is the Xbox vendor; it "makes" that hardware. Microsoft has also been the vendor for the all-time best peripheral pointing device I have ever had the utter joy to experience using, an optical trackball that was a beauty to behold and a pleasure to use. Of course, Microsoft discontinued it, and someone stole my trackball.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

who are owned outright by RIAA, Microsoft, Sony, Ford, etc.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

half the patents being contested today are at that sort of level, either ancient or something from nature.

apotheon
apotheon

I managed to click in the wrong place, and upvoted you instead of downvoting. Anyone reading Gisabun's vote total, imagine it's two points lower (minus one for the upvote I didn't mean to give, and minus another one for the downvote I did mean to give). Now, on to the comment I originally wanted to make: QUOTE: . . . this is coming from a "blogger" . . . Who cares about the source? Read the content, and judge that. Attacking the person who wrote it is not a good way to make a reasonable point. QUOTE: Microsoft is protecting their patents just like any other company - big or small. [citation needed] Y'know, software patents are a scourge to software developers. Every day, it gets harder and harder to get away with writing software, because patents cover everything -- including ridiculous nonsense that is in no way innovative and non-obvious. The USPTO and courts have really screwed the pooch in the software patent arena. Even Microsoft representatives are on record as having said that software patents are an atrocious perversion of "justice", and most of Microsoft's use of patents has historically been to maintain them as a defensive measure against patent trolls that might seek to sue Microsoft for a quick buck without ever actually making anything to sell. Now Microsoft is becoming a patent troll. Maybe you don't actually know, though. Maybe you don't know anything about software development at all. That would explain a lot about your commentary. QUOTE: Some open source users just want to get everything for free That must be why the Humble Bundle guys, who sell bundles of computer games for whatever price downloaders want to pay, consistently see payments that look like this: 1. MS Windows users consistently pay the least on average. 2. Users of Linux-based systems consistently pay the most on average. 3. Apple MacOS X users consistently pay somewhere between the two on average. Your claim is nonsensical and flies in the face of all evidence. QUOTE: Are others too lazy to invent something on their own? What -- like the millions of open source developers who create new software on a daily basis and contribute millions of lines of code to existing open source projects? You're not making any sense.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

"you've stolen this of mine," be it a physical object or a patent item, they usually tell you what the item you've taken looks like - they just don't walk up and scream you "you stole my thingie, pay me." Which is what Microsoft have been doing. Mind you, to date they've lost four or five patent infringement law cases for each one they've won. So I wouldn't be too concerned if they accused me of a patent violation.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Apple make their own hardware and software to sell you as one unit and you can always go buy someone else's gear. But Microsoft only makes the software then uses strong-arm tactics to get the majority of the hardware people to put their software on their hardware, thus limiting people's choices of what to buy. Nearly twenty years ago when Microsoft started to ramp up their pressure and strong-arm tactics on the hardware manufacturers the Microsoft senior management (the guys that own the controlling interest of the voting stock) stated their long term aim was to have everyone using a PC locked into using Microsoft software, and that's been their main guiding light ever since. They don't really care about software security ot Internet security, just about what can be done to force people further along their planned path of vendor lock-in to Microsoft software.

AZ_IT
AZ_IT

that Microsoft should open a new department that would troll all the communities and forums for suggestions from people who like to hear themselves talk? As a student I sent an email to Microsoft about how it wasn't realistic to expect students to buy Office Pro or Ultimate in order to get MS Access or to buy Access as a standalone product for entirely too much money. My main argument was that students were poor and didn't want to spend money (that they didn't have) so that they could take the one class required for their major, that required the use of Access. Especially when you consider that they would rarely, if ever, use it again. I'm not vain enough to think that my email was the one that brought this: http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msstore/pd/productID.229301900/flyout.true about although I like to think it played a minuscule part. I do feel like Microsoft listens to people that approach them in a respectful, sincere, and appropriate manner. They do not however listen to people blowing steam up their own hind parts. The fact of the matter is that we can talk, debate, philosophize, speculate, and argue for the rest of our lives about what's wrong with Microsoft, Windows 8, Apple, any or all of the Linux distros, patent laws, the trends in technology, or even society but in the end--unless we are willing to do something about it--all of that talk is just a lot of steam. I suppose the point I'm trying to make is that it's kind of ridiculous to expect Microsoft to pay attention to the steam that isn't even directed to them. If any of us really want to make an argument or point to Microsoft we should send them an email. And if we really want someone to read it we should check our emotions at door and explain our point of view in a clear and logical way, keeping in mind that there is a bigger picture in the world of which our point of view is only ever a very small piece. -From someone with a point of view and a big mouth :)

apotheon
apotheon

QUOTE: Stuck with Apple and BSD Unix? Nothing wrong with that. Sounds like a huge improvement, in fact.

pgit
pgit

There's no equivalent open source replacement for DirectX, in terms of quality. Worse is open source (eg OpenGL) is often a moving, or even disappearing target.

tech
tech

The article is pretty much dead on. I have been saying the same things for a long time. M$ has NEVER said what infringes, just that Linux does infringe, but pay us and we will let you be. I have rid my house of M$ products and if I could I would rid the workplace as well. In fact for a couple of small companies I consult for I have already. The only reason M$ ever 'cared' about Linux was to try to make it run better on Hyper-V, their VM offering (that few use).

pgit
pgit

There's a lot of trackballs on the market. None of them are to your liking?

lsatenstein
lsatenstein

The highway is paid with taxes, toll roads are not free, and I choose to not travel the toll road route. I develop software, some of which is free, and I sell support for my free stuff. What I develop for a company always needs some tailoring. For example, a manufacturer of glass food containers and a manufacturer of plastic bottles serve similar markets, but their warehousing, supply chain and manufacturing and distributions are sufficiently different that one product needs tweaking to meet the two different business requirements. The manufacturer is not in the software business, his goal is to maximize his profits, improve his quality, and minimize his costs and maximize his marketing efforts. So, he will buy support for that open-source software, because he does not require a full time staff. Often he will just subscribe to a cloud provider until his business requires in-house installations. Telecommunications is changing the way business and software is being done. Do we actually need a MS product if we can work from the web?

xDxReaper
xDxReaper

"Nearly twenty years ago when Microsoft started to ramp up their pressure and strong-arm tactics on the hardware manufacturers the Microsoft senior management (the guys that own the controlling interest of the voting stock) stated their long term aim was to have everyone using a PC locked into using Microsoft software, and that's been their main guiding light ever since." That's the point of big companies, isn't it? No disrespect, but you sound as if that is not expected from any company that sells anything. Fast food? Games? Sodas? If any company wanted to compete with anyone and not try to be superior and control the market, they would just put their "product" on paper and pass it around and say "Let the best one win." lol That's not how to win!

Slayer_
Slayer_

So the fact that OpenGL is supported on more operating systems means nothing?

apotheon
apotheon

None of them are quite as good as the one I got from Microsoft years ago.

apotheon
apotheon

There was a whole book written about it, for the layman, and the analysis specifically applied to publicly traded corporations. This behavior is essentially mandated by corporate law and the fiduciary responsibility of corporate officers and board members to the greater public mass of shareholders. Calling that "healthy" is, itself, a pathological redefinition of terms. Such are the unintended consequences of government regulation of markets.

Jaqui
Jaqui

any successful business, if psychoanalyzed as if a person, is a sociopath? it is a healthy business if it is one. I remember reading that somewhere about 6-7 years ago.

apotheon
apotheon

No, I didn't forget it. It's not "capitalistic" per se. It's corporatist, not capitalist. Would you claim that patent trolling is an "information technology" thing, just because some IT businesses engage in patent trolling? If not, you shouldn't apply the "capitalist" label so broadly to sociopathic corporate business practices.

jck
jck

capitalistic... welcome to America.

apotheon
apotheon

Corporate law essentially creates perverse incentives to behave badly in the market, exactly the way Microsoft behaves badly in the market. Yeah, I absolutely expect gigantic public corporations to behave that way. That doesn't make it okay, though. QUOTE: they would just put their "product" on paper and pass it around and say "Let the best one win." lol That's not how to win! You seem to be one of those people who think that "winning" is not about doing well. Those people think that "winning" is making someone else lose. That is, of course, ridiculous . . . antisocial . . . sociopathic.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

1. I was pointing out why some people don't like the way Microsoft behave when they said people were too hard on Microsoft. 2. Yes, companies are supposed to make money, but by selling a better product or using better marketing systems, not by acting like standover merchants and doing economically what they'd be charged over as a criminal if done with physical force.

lsatenstein
lsatenstein

Two things are going to happen this fall. Windows 8, and substantial Open GL improvements and standards. And as this happens, and MS revenues drop (Corps will not buy into W8, but the kiddy and grandfatether consumer will), the number of sales will be at a level to even sustain the current level of MS employment and support. Look for massive layoffs in 2013-2014 from Microsoft. Microsoft is not the car industry, though it could be considered as such, because of all the consulting firms that use W7. Is the government going to do a bail-out of MS in 2014? The consultants can switch to supporting Linux and Apple products.

xDxReaper
xDxReaper

"So the fact that OpenGL is supported on more operating systems means nothing?" Short answer? It means absolutely nothing. Why? Drivers!?!?!? And market. If Win8 does not destroy MS, nothing, absolutely nothing will. It survived Vista and its still king. Why? Because Microsoft has power, support and kick ass tools. Name a good game and/or engine that is OpenGL only and does not use a VM to run...so, Minecraft, RuneScape, Spiral Knights and Bloodline Champions are out of the question. Plus, the rest that run on a JVM or .Net or Mono. Oh, and don't forget all the PS3 games, Wii games and heck, pretty much every console game ever...You are left with...Rage? We know how that went... Big game companies aim for the money and at this moment in time, that sight is aimed straight at the iOS, 360, PS3, Wii, Flash, Windows, HTML5 and Android platforms. In no specific order. What API will they use if they had to actually pick just one? DirectX 9 and/or 11 or OpenGL ES 2.0 . Not Open GL 2,3,4 or some other thing. (About me: Windows user, IE9 Canvas is awesome!!, never really use IE at all, Firefox FTFW!, Hate Chrome-its useless, never tried anything *inux(wtf for!?), Mac OS is of no interest to me, I'm all for Ouya, If the xbox720 leak is true I'm so totally gonna get me one of those!)

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