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Microsoft Patent Envisions Free Computing 157

Posted by Zonk
from the free-is-a-variable-term dept.
Dotnaught writes "A Microsoft patent application published on Thursday shows the company contemplating free computers and software for its customers. It suggests 'a service provider such as a telephone company, an Internet service provider, or a leasing company may provide computer systems or components to users at a reduced charge or for free in exchange for targeted advertising delivery.'"
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Microsoft Patent Envisions Free Computing

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  • And it won't work until computers are even cheaper than they are now. I mean hell, you can't even give away unlimited internet access and still make money.
    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday July 28, 2006 @05:32PM (#15802222) Homepage

      Actually, I like everything about this idea except for the words "targeted" and "advertising".

      Seriously, if the offer is that someone can data-mine everything on my PC and send me lots of pop-ups, spam, and flash banners, then no thanks. If computers are really cheap enough to make this business model viable, then I'd just as soon buy the really extra-cheap computer myself anyway (if it's cheap, why not?), which means the business model still wouldn't be viable.

      • Seriously, if the offer is that someone can data-mine everything on my PC and send me lots of pop-ups, spam, and flash banners, then no thanks.

        On a positive note, it may break some people of their Internet Addiction.

        omg noes!!1 every reload brings more suffering!

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Seriously, if the offer is that someone can data-mine everything on my PC and send me lots of pop-ups, spam, and flash banners, then no thanks.

        Yeah, but, think of all those porn ads that will be streeming in! I can't wait!!!!

      • You can buy them. Just like you can buy cellphones in the US.
        But even then they could make it so that ur non trusted computing OS and apps dont work with the network.
        I say this in light of the fact that with the merging of the Telcos soon there will be a monopoly or at least an oligopoly like the cellphone companies. Where u can only run their apps(with spyware on them) on your PC or u dont get on the(non neutral) net. Sounds far fetched? I know but thats what RIAAT&TMicrosoft wants. And they have lots
      • Actually, I like everything about this idea except for the words "targeted" and "advertising".

        I like everything about this idea except for the words "Microsoft" and "patent".

      • by Anonymous Coward
        This is incredible! I think it is absolute genius to take ownership and control away from the consumer and put it in the hands of big business!

        Why should you own your own computer, your own OS, your own software, your own data, etc. when you could be told what to use, what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and allow others to basically own your personal data!

        Anyone else here old enough to remember when the PC was about decentralizing computing, taking control of your own data, and empowering yourself? T
        • People have done this before. Given away from computers that required you to view ads while using them, and usually required a certain amount of time spent with the computer connected to the Internet for retrieving new ads.

          Could someone who cared enough to read the article explain how this patent is different than what those companies were doing in the late 90s?
      • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com>

        Actually, I like everything about this idea except for the words "targeted" and "advertising".

        I can't stand the irony here. Gmail wouldn't exist if it weren't for targeted advertising.
      • Seriously, if the offer is that someone can data-mine everything on my PC and send me lots of pop-ups, spam, and flash banners, then no thanks.

        Are you kidding? You already pay for that with your Internet subscription. But you might reject: "No I don't! Everything is blocked". And you would be right. Except the only way those things are circumvented is due to third party software and/or knowledge, likely not your own. You are paying for advertising, you just aren't seeing it. Everytime you visit Slashdot
      • This sounds more like one of those patents people file to prevent other people from actually doing it.

        I highly doubt Microsoft will be doing anything in this direction in the near (5 yrs)future.
    • Aren't there mobile phones which cost hundreds of pounds to buy normally but come free on a contract?

      As long as the perceived gain outweighs the cost, people will suggest such ideas.
      • Aren't there mobile phones which cost hundreds of pounds to buy normally but come free on a contract?

        Yes. Your phone bill is padded out enough to pay for your phone upgrade every year. You pay for a phone upgrade whether you get one or not, which should be motivation to get a new phone every year. Some providers will even give you the subsidy codes, so you can unlock your old phones, and sell them. (Better to tell them that you're going to use it out of country.)

      • "Aren't there mobile phones which cost hundreds of pounds to buy......."

        Depends on what you're using to barter with. Hundreds of pounds of flour won't buy much in this neck of the woods, but hundreds of pounds of small carved novelty items would buy several "mobile phones" I'd wager.
      • While that may be true, those phone calls that are made are not party calls with a third recorded voice spewing marketing hype during your private conversations.

        Why don't they patent free contact lenses with marketing banners embedded into the lense so no matter where the wearer looks they will see the add, sure to be really really popular ;).

    • [0004] Other prior art service providers, such as Internet service providers and e-mail providers, have offered free or reduced charge services when users are willing to accept advertising in a portion of the window space allocated to the process supporting that service. Advertising delivery was restricted to the time when a user was connected to the particular service and only on display elements, such as a browser window, associated with that service.

    • And what's to stop people from wiping the hard drives and installing Linux, thereby using the computer without seeing the targetted advertising? Unless they used their own proprietary hardware, it would probably be pretty easy to run any software you wanted to on them (ala XBox). If they used anything too specialized, the extra costs created from the custom hardware would defeat being able to sell it at a reduced cost compared to regular PC hardware.
      • And what's to stop people from wiping the hard drives and installing Linux, thereby using the computer without seeing the targetted advertising?

        I suppose you'd use some kind of trusted computing to lock down the hardware, making installing new software more difficult. You could also configure some kind of check-in server that would monitor the computer usage by having the computer contact it every time it got connected to the internet. An extended time without a check-in would prompt some kind of interven

    • In Soviet Microsoft it's

      3)Profit
      2)??????
      1)90s dot-bomb business plan

      Rich
  • Prior Art (Score:3, Funny)

    by femtoguy (751223) on Friday July 28, 2006 @05:18PM (#15802094)
    I seem to remember about a zillion companies in the 90s that did this. A good example is PeoplePC. Does this patent things have no sanity.
    • I seem to remember about a zillion companies in the 90s that did this. A good example is PeoplePC. Does this patent things have no sanity.

      Ah, but this is Microsoft. They've just invented it so it must be be new. They even have the Buckets o' Lawyers necessary to make that true if they so desire. Wouldn't be the first time they threw billions down a hole, probably won't be the last.

    • Re:Prior Art (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And the I-opener was subsidized in a similar manner.. That was a wonderful success.

      I say go ahead MS, give us free machines to install Linux on..... Hee Hee
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's newspeak. Microsoft free, free as in prison.
    • It's newspeak. Microsoft free, free as in prison.

      Well lets see, prisoners get more free time, more television channels, better food, more sex, more movies, and better workout equipment than I do/have, all at the cost (to them) of zero dollars. -sounds pretty good to me --maybe not the sex part
  • Didn't People PC and a few other companies try this already...and give up on it after it didn't work?
    • Didn't People PC and a few other companies try this already...and give up on it after it didn't work?

      Yes, something like that at Fry's. PC's for about $200 back in the late 90's because you had to sit and look at all the avertising that came with it, since you had to connect with a internet provider as a condition of purchase. Later came eMachines which were inexpensive, but required a longterm contract with AOL or sommat.

    • Actually it did work - think adware which in my opinion falls under this description of patent - giving computer resources for free - software is computer resource/asset. Many companies did it and do it on daily basis, think Google (you are using their computer resources while reciving their ads). Etc.

      The patent description goes then to specific implementation when the system downloads targeted ads to use locally or untargeted when it does not know the target.

      The only thing in it that is just not-so retarde
  • hello? (Score:5, Funny)

    by gmack (197796) <gmack@iPOLLOCKnnerfire.net minus painter> on Friday July 28, 2006 @05:19PM (#15802102) Homepage Journal
    Hey microsoft it's the year 2000 calling.. they want their buisness plan back.

    Seriously. Wasn't exactly this done already? How can they patent this?
    • maybe the submitted the patent in 1998?
    • Re:hello? (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Seriously. Wasn't exactly this done already? How can they patent this?

      Because the patent system is useless except for employing lawyers and extorting innovators. It isn't that this is innovative, but because it is now a patent it can be used to sue a smaller company that does not have billions to defend itself.

      Or perhaps Microsoft is making mockery at the patent system? Or maybe Microsoft is getting ready to create it's next virus infected spyware trojan adware (Vista) operating system and want to protec

    • Maybe they're getting the patent now so they can go back and sue all those people from years ago...?
    • I want to know how this could be patented anyway, as it's an idea or business plan? How can that be protected by patent?
    • Buisness? Strong Bad, is that you?
  • Sooo... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Poromenos1 (830658) on Friday July 28, 2006 @05:19PM (#15802109) Homepage
    I'm taking bets on how many minutes this'll take until it's cracked to show no ads.
    • -x Where X = number of minutes between time the "Format C:" command was invented and the time the business model is executed.
    • It's not that simple. You don't have to break the computer program, you have to break the legal system backing it up. If their 'tamper proof' system detects that something is wrong, they come and check nothing is. If you're using the system without seeing ads, they sue your ass out of existence. Whether it's difficult to break or not is largely irrelevant.
    • It depends on whether or not some version of trusted computing is involved to ensure that the underlying OS isn't tampered with. Otherwise, it's only your favorite distro's Live CD away from being a completely ad-free system.

      If I were evil and designing it, I'd apply some of the Xbox 360's security provisions into the machine to ensure that no OS other than a trusted MS OS with TCPA protections was running on the system. I'd then make much of the functioning of the OS contingent on being able to contact c
      • If I were evil and designing it, I'd apply some of the Xbox 360's security provisions into the machine to ensure that no OS other than a trusted MS OS with TCPA protections was running on the system.
        Why would it be evil to lock down a system that you're giving away? Richard, is that you?
  • Yeah, right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 28, 2006 @05:19PM (#15802111)
    Patents are never filed because someone plans on doing something.

    they're filed because someone wants to stop someone from doing something else. this is the case here. I hope it doesn't get accepted.
    • Bingo. I agree with you. MS wants to stop these kinds of things happening. This would not generate business for them. Companies can use Free OS on those machines to keep the cost low. This is a defensive patent from their point of view. They would not attempt to get into this kind of business. But in case google or some other company tries it later for targeted ad, here is how MS will fight.
  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Friday July 28, 2006 @05:20PM (#15802116)
    CompuServ + Circuit City. PeoplePC. Altavista. Walmart.
    Free hardware and/or online access.

    Didn't work too well last time, either. Once you let the marketing guys fingers into it, they screw it up, by pushing too much.
    • CompuServ + Circuit City. PeoplePC. Altavista. Walmart.

      Better yet, ABC, NBC and CBS they've used this business model for years.
    • You can't read just the first claim or two in a patent application. Those always include life, the universe, and everything. They start out with the general area, then focus down to what is really being claimed as new. Nobody really expects the first several claims to be valid, although the hope of the filer is that the edge of validity is nearer the top than the bottom of the list. That is what makes reading the beginning of a patent or a filing for one often so outrageous.
  • Unbelievable (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    People give away a free service and make money on advertising. I'm sure nobody ever though of that before!

    Is there some sort of prizes for most ridiculous alleged "invention" or are they just working within to destroy the whole patent system? What the hell is the invention supposed to be?
  • Thats what it sounds like to me.

    Also sounds like a return to the old Bell system.
  • This shouldn't be surprising - computers have almost become as commoditized as cell phones, which are often given out for free by phone companies. I don't know if Microsoft is the best one to pull this off (I'd put my money on someone like Dell which has the infrastructure and logistics in place), but it's going to happen sooner or later.
  • And then charge Microsoft money.

    Seriously, next thing you know, you'll be telling me that information just wants to be expensive and that spam is good for me.

    But I'd trust Microsoft offering free hardware and software about as much as I'd trust someone "accidentally" phoning me and leaving me a message about this insider stock tip she just "happened" to pass on ...
  • We're not helping Microsoft fast enough. So they say, "let us help you help us better". The more people are online, the better for everyone, especially a company like Microsoft. Read "What are Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett up to? [livejournal.com]"
  • oh god, not desktop banner ads again ... no no no ....
  • People are used to buying a computer and getting free applications. They simply won't be happy getting free hardware and then having a huge bill for software.

    Consumers aren't that dumb, they don't like printer ink prices and use alternative brands where possible. So this idea will arouse suspicion.
    • People are used to buying a computer and getting free applications. They simply won't be happy getting free hardware and then having a huge bill for software.

      OTOH, I'm sure many people would be amenable to paying a reduced cost for broadband access (compared to the charges of traditional providers) that came with a free computer [of course, a vendor lock-in device that didn't allow you to run arbitrary software] with basic functionality, and many of those people could then be sold additional add-on "soft

  • Just a thought: Microsoft isn't paying for the electric bills, might they not want to sell/donate extra CPU cycles to get extra revenue/reputation?
  • Obligatory (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bryansix (761547) on Friday July 28, 2006 @05:34PM (#15802231) Homepage
    This is patently absurd!

    Seriously, consumers need a lobby just dedicated to patent law reform. First step, outlaw patenting business plans and most intellectual property. Second step, open up the process so anyone can prove prior art and throw out a patent application on those grounds. Third step, go back to requiring a working model of anything physical to be patented.
  • Patents...heh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by slimjim8094 (941042)
    So, a patent. Wonderful. Has it occured to anyone that they might not use it? That they might not have any intention of using it? Perhaps it's just so, that if anybody tries to do it, they will have to pay royalties? Did anyone think of this before they said "stupid...never work..."?
    • No, because what immediately occurred to me was that this is anoter one of those patents that should never have been issues because it's old hat. Prior art. Whatever.
    • That's called being a patent troll, and patent trolling is one thing I've never seen even the slightest hint of a valid supporting reason for.
  • by jeffsenter (95083) on Friday July 28, 2006 @05:34PM (#15802239) Homepage
    My guess is Microsoft is just patenting vague advertising-revenue stuff to block others from patenting it. This does not mean Microsoft actually plans to move to advertising instead of paying for software.
    • You may be right, fortunately. Or, unfortunatley: whatever happened to the original intention of patents that, you know, you would actually follow through and build the "invention"?
    • Whether or not it's currently a part of their long-term plans is obviously unknown, but in the past Gates has talked about how he would like the hardware to be free, and the user to pay a monthly rental charge for the software.
  • Does this patent mean that only microsoft can give away computers and computer software that is paid for with advertising? As much as I would love free PCs for everybody (and microsoft could probably afford to give away free PCs) it seems to me that any company should be able to manufacture computers and computer software and give them away, then make money from advertising...giving away computers, perhaps with a second screen built into the first one to show ads, could allow 100% of humans to have access t
  • double-take (Score:2, Funny)

    by bersl2 (689221)
    Anybody else read that as Microsoft Envisions Patent Free Computing?
  • This has been done before, hasn't it? I distinctly remember a company who offered a free computer and dial-up ISP in exchange for "targeted advertising". I can't recall the company name but it failed miserably.

    I remember seeing screen shots of the system and a good 1/3 of the screen was ads -- all the time.

    So, yea...ok, let them apply for this patent. I don't care if they apply for it. But I will raise bloody hell if it's granted because there is CLEARLY prior-art for this. And not just in th
    • I remember seeing screen shots of the system and a good 1/3 of the screen was ads -- all the time.

      Way back when, I tried the Altavista 'free' dialup service a few times. On a P133 laptop (average at the time), the service was totally unuseable. The modem and the CPU could not keep up with the constant downloading and refreshing of ads.
  • 23 worst (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Pcworld reported in May this year on the 25 worst tech products of all time. Giving away free PCs is 23 on the list. Dan Tynan notes that at least these 'innovative' products earned their place in the H-T Hall of Shame. You must have seen the pcworld report but for those of us that havent seen it, here is what he had to say...

    "In the late 90s, companies competed to dangle free PCs in front of you: All you had to do was sign up, and a PC would eventually show up at your door. But one way or another. there w
    • The biggest flaw in the FreePC plan was that the people that would go for a free computer typically did so because they either didn't have money, or did but were were major tightwads - which wasn't a very interesting demographic group for advertising.
  • by tktk (540564)
    Microsoft has a patent on "free computing."

    So, am I going to have to pay royalties to give my little sister a computer?

    What if I just give her parts and then later put it together for her? Am I in the clear?

    Microsoft will make a killing during Xmas and the start of the school year.

  • We're obviously talking "free as in beer" here, but still... imagine Richard Stallman reading that headline.
  • In BC (and maybe other provinces) Telus (ADSL ISP/Telco) is giving away a free Dell computer if you sign up for 3 years of High speed internet.. sure the internet is $40 a month, and you have to have a phone line on top of that.. but it's a FREE COMPUTER!

    http://promo.telus.com/tm/06/q3/highspeed/?BAC-cs0 6q3HSpeed&link=flames [telus.com]
  • For $5/month this advertisement can play without sound.

    For $10/month we won't run this ad.

  • Yeah they want to be a "a service provider such as a telephone company". Every company wants to be like that. And get regulated into oblivion. No real growth potential. Stagnate. Stale.

    I believe them, don't you?
  • I can see it now... you get the free computer, and it's burdened with EULAs that say hackers can't repurpose the device (remember CueCAT barcode readers), followed by software that monitors what you do, floods you with ads, and collects marketing information about you.

    No thanks.

    When I slap down money for a hardware and software, I want to be beholden to no one. Ever.
  • Advertising evils, Microsoft evils, and Patent evils, all rolled into a business plan that has already proven to fail. I can't decide which to flame first!
  • Finally (Score:2, Funny)

    by iminplaya (723125)
    We'll have a patent on "FREE". Is that a paradox, or an oxymoron?
  • I would be happier to see the headline:

    "Microsoft envisions patent-free computing"
  • 'Microsoft', 'Free' and 'Patent' in the same sentence? In the same title??
  • Not so fast... (Score:4, Informative)

    by rackhamh (217889) on Friday July 28, 2006 @06:30PM (#15802637)
    Every time a patent is mentioned on Slashdot, the same misunderstandings crop up over and over and over...
    1. This is not a PATENT. It's a patent application PUBLICATION... which means the application has filed, but hasn't been examined yet (and probably won't be for about 2 more years).
    2. Just because a patent is filed doesn't mean it will be granted.
    3. The substance of the patent is in the claims. This is what Microsoft thinks (or wants the USPTO to think) is patentably novel. Specifically, what they're claiming is:

    A computer-readable medium having computer-executable modules for execution on a client computer in association with advertising delivery comprising:
    an opt-in module, comprising support for selecting an advertising delivery mode;
    a user profiling module for collecting user profile data;
    and an advertising delivery module for presenting a targeted advertisement corresponding to information in the user profile data according to the selected advertising delivery mode.

    This is what the USPTO will be looking at when they do their prior art search.

    • Re:Not so fast... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by intrico (100334) on Friday July 28, 2006 @11:52PM (#15803864) Homepage
      Rather than misunderstanding like you say, I think most people on here are smart enough see through the smoke of the grossly-obfuscated language used in most of these patents. With the recent patent news, I think most people by now are aware of items #1 and #2 that you mention. But then we get to item #3, which is where the problem lies. If you understand technology and/or are highly literate, as is the case for most Slashdot readers, you can read the claims for many of these patents, see through the obfuscatory smoke, and realize that what they describe is either something that is blatantly obvious and/or something that has been done before.

      For example, the portion of Microsoft's claims that you included above can be summarized as follows:
      A program that runs on a customer's PC, letting the customer opt-in and select how they want their ads delivered, stores information about the customer, and then delivers the ads according to what information has been collected from the customer.

      Just the fact that these companies would even dare to apply for things like that should naturally be enough to set off alarms. So I believe most people do in fact understand quite well what is going on.
      • That's the broadest independent claim. I think if you look at the dependent claims, you'll start seeing more points of novelty. The independent claims are usually overly agressive to begin with...
  • by swordgeek (112599) on Friday July 28, 2006 @06:32PM (#15802650) Journal
    How much did your Sunday paper cost you? Maybe a buck, these days. It probably cost the publisher about $3 to print it, factoring in all of the news gathering and publishing costs. However, they also sold about $5/paper in ads, so they're making a net profit.

    Advertising is the primary revenue generator for information content providers. TVs, websites, newspapers, radio, and now computers. The only real difference is that once you get the computer, you have the computer and can theoretically do what you want. Of course, you could do that with a newspaper as well, by ripping the ads out.
    • Newspapers are not the same by a long shot. When you buy a newspaper, it's yours. The newspaper company has absolutely no way of know if you even read any of the advertisements. Once the sale is done, it's done.

      The way that it would most likely work is similar to what others have tried in the past. Yes, you get the PC; but in order to grant you the PC in a "free status, it has to signal back to the mother ship that it's still there and still receiving advertisements. If it does not signal back or it
    • Advertising is the primary revenue generator for information content providers. TVs, websites, newspapers, radio, and now computers.

      Yep, papers and radio are cheap. Ever look at your cable bill? 120 channels loaded with advertising and they charge you for it. They get away with it because in most places it is a monopoly and the consumer has no choice.

      So as long as advertisers give us an option I don't care. The day they try to legislate required advertising I will take my internet connection undergro

  • by Above (100351)
    Give away hardware supported by ad revenue. Never seen that model before.
  • There is NOTHING more expensive than something that is "free".
  • Prior art? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mabhatter654 (561290) on Friday July 28, 2006 @07:20PM (#15802890)
    isn't there already prior art for this? I thought there were 2 or 3 companies already doing this, many were in South america, so that may not be "prior" art. Also, wouldn't netzero qualify... they didn't give away a whole PC, but they had a model of ads-for-service 5 years ago.
  • I tell you, Bill is "retiring" from Microsoft but not from growing them larger. While is wife is off saving the worlds children, Bill will be brainwashing them with Windows and other Microsoft Software crack.

    There was that deal with AMD the brought about that little anti-Linux box( forget the name ).

    But then, then there was Flexgo ( http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/flexgo/default.mspx [microsoft.com] ) at WinHec and THAT should have been obvious to the press what was going on there.

    He may not call it One Windows Laptop Per Ch
  • by rs79 (71822)
    How much can I pay not to have to use free Miscrosoft hardware and software?

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday July 28, 2006 @08:53PM (#15803246)
    Giving away software and services and making money through ads?

    At any rate, I'd view this as a "defensive patent". One they don't want to implement, but to keep someone from implementing it instead. Exactly what patents were NOT intended for.

    My only hope is that with the abuse of patents, some people will start reconsidering the patenting process. Or maybe the whole system altogether.
  • Microsoft is first and formost a marketing company selling software. Second is their legal department to determine what they can get away with or can afford to pay penality for doing wrong, and third is acusition of the works of others or the suppression of others.

    Only an idiot would at this time see this article as a favorable towards MS fact.

    It is at best an admittance that MS may not be able to compete with either OSS or Google ad revenue. Via their marketing practices to make it sound like it was their
  • ...requests that Microsoft just "STFU", stop poking their big, fat Microsoft nose in areas that doesn't concern them and concentrate more on fixing the bugs in their software - otherwise we're all allowed to put our big, hob-nailed, non-Microsoft boots on and give them a damned good kicking.
  • Microsoft patents bartering?

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