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Comment Re:yeah just like the IBM PC never took off (Score 2) 266

Basically the PC market has been reduced to who can make them the cheapest. Very little innovation is going on.

You are trolling, are you not? PCs today are literally thousands of times faster than they were when the first IBM PC was introduced. There are millions more software titles available. You can get them in any size, shape or color that you like. What would you have them do that they don't already?

Or let's put it another way. This is a picture of the fastest Mac you could get at its launch in 2003. This is a picture of the fastest Mac you can get today, in 2012, nine years later. The primary change made by the king of curated computing was to make their hardware more like PC hardware by switching to x86 from PPC. Given that, how can you complain about anything Dell is doing?

At the moment the Mac still seems to be thriving. Opening it up to cloning almost killed it.

The Mac was already dying by the time they brought in the clones, because MacOS of the time was antiquated and stagnant. All the clones did was fail to save them. That shortcoming was rectified with OS X, which is why they're doing well now. Otherwise explain Microsoft: They allow you to put Windows on about anything you like and that's one of their few business units that actually turns a major profit.

Comment Re:Consoles vs. gaming PCs (Score 1) 266

You're conflating 'console' and 'PC' with 'closed' and 'open' -- the advantages you're citing are advantages of the console format (i.e. big screen + game controllers), not curation.

Example: Suppose Microsoft were to produce a "console" that runs Windows Media Center Edition and all Windows programs, but also XBOX games.* Why would anyone buy an XBOX (or a PS3) instead of that at a similar price point, when the latter has a superset of the functionality?

*(Let's ignore how they could do that when XBOX is PPC and Windows programs are x86; maybe they build hardware that includes both Llano and Cell or they just use an APU fast enough that it can software emulate the now seven-year-old XBOX like the Alpha once emulated x86 with FX!32.)

Comment Re:yeah just like the IBM PC never took off (Score 4, Insightful) 266

But lets look a little deeper. How did that end up working out for IBM? How many PCs has IBM sold lately?

You say that as though it's a bad thing. That's how we want it to work: If you invent something once and thereafter decide you want to rest on your laurels forever, the market is supposed to eat your lunch. We want a market where companies have to continually innovate or they get kicked to the curb. This idea that inventing something once should give you an inalienable right to a permanent revenue stream is a disease.

More than that, it's a disease that kills the host first. Companies want control, obviously. Customers and developers also want control. If a company like Apple decides they want to control everything, they get a larger slice of a smaller pie. That can work out well in the short term in some cases, but eventually someone comes around who provides a product which is of a similar quality but which allows users and other third parties to have more of that control, which causes more people to use it. The market share of the more free product increases faster than that of the less free product, because all else equal who wouldn't want more control for themselves and less for someone else? The walled garden is a false dichotomy because you can have optional curation without mandatory curation, and the first company to get the former right will eat the latter's lunch in exactly the same way and for the same reasons that the open web defeated AOL.

Comment Re:Easily explainable: Nokia (Score 2) 371

XNA, Silverlight etc make it ridiculously easy to do apps for WP7.

Only if you completely ignore the position Microsoft is in with respect to the overall market.

XNA doesn't matter. What matters is how easy it is for the developers who have already written apps for iOS and Android to port them to WP7. Microsoft is trying to apply their usual MO to a market where they have no market power, and it doesn't work. Pushing platform-specific developer tools and EEE are useless when the platform is a very small minority, because instead of locking out other platforms from software developed for yours, you lock out your own platform from software developed for the others.

Comment Re:BSD license was always more permissive, so grea (Score 1) 808

People couldn't use it if Apple didn't include it.

People don't use it even though they do.

Anyway, you're moving goalposts.

I said nobody really uses Kerberos. You said Apple uses it. But they don't use it; they're not users. They're distributors. They package it with their OS, so that users can use it. And then the users, by a large majority, don't. So few that the product (xserve) that it was originally included for was cancelled, and OS X Server is now only sold on non-rackmount desktop hardware as a gesture to the few people who want an upgrade path.

Comment Re:Expecting honesty from politicians?!???!?!! (Score 5, Interesting) 630

The same could be argued against cutting Public Radio or the national endowment of the arts funding. Every cut you make will be a drop in the bucket. Every tax raised may also be a drop in the bucket. But, but collecting those drops into a bucket, it gets filled up.

The problem is this: The budget is comprised of social insurance programs, the military, interest on the debt, and "Everything Else." If you cut the entirety of "Everything Else," you will not close the deficit. The deficit is not caused by NPR or the Department of Education. It is caused by foreign wars and Medicare. At the other end of the spectrum, raising taxes by the amount it would take to close the deficit would be (and this is the technical term that economists use) "very bad."

The reason why the Tea Party candidates are dishonest is that they have no plan. They don't want to raise taxes, but if you ask them what they want to cut, they either give you some completely useless answer because the thing they list is 0.1% of the budget, or they provide something even more meaningless like "[unspecified] pork barrel projects."

The Democrats are dishonest for exactly the same reasons. You can't balance the budget with just taxes. And it probably isn't worth cutting anything in the category of "Everything Else" -- most of that stuff is pretty important, and none of it is very expensive. But the Democrats don't want to be heard suggesting cuts to military spending or social insurance either.

The elephant in the room is that those are the only options. The only way to eliminate the deficit without raising taxes at all is to cut all military and social insurance spending in half. The only way to eliminate the deficit without raising taxes so much that the economy goes back into the recession is by cutting those things by at least 25%.

The final alternative is to just say fuck it and keep running huge deficits without cuts. Those are the options. There is no option that allows you to close the deficit without raising taxes or cutting anything important. There is no option that allows you to close the deficit without goring anybody's ox. So you have to pick an ox, you have to gore it, and that is very inconvenient for politicians, so they get on the TV and lie to you about whose fault it is and what is going to happen.

The truth is they're probably just going to keep running huge deficits, regardless of who is in office, because nobody is willing to take on the AARP or the defense industry.

Comment Re:AMERICA FUCK YEA!! (Score 1) 140

You can never have enough money going to schools.

If for every thousand dollars you send to schools, they take out seven hundred and burn it in a giant cash furnace under the school, can you see why putting out the fire might cause a greater improvement for education than doubling the school's fuel budget?

Comment Re:If only the enemy would... (Score 1) 140

If only. The problem is that the difficulty of modern war isn't to kill as many enemy soldiers as possible until they surrender. It's: OK NATO, you "won." But if you leave then warlords and extremists will take over, so you have to stay for several years and keep order during the time it takes to rebuild the country, hold elections and train a local police force not loyal to the previous dictator, and in the meantime insurgents are going to be lobbing IEDs at you and building their bases under hospitals to make you look bad when you blow them up.

Comment Re:Yet Another Reason... (Score 1) 214

To respond to your limitations issue, I hear what you're saying - most of the claim is scaffolding and there's really only one interesting nugget of invention. This is often the case because there needs to be context and antecedent basis. It sounds like what you'd prefer is if everyone wrote a Jepson claim.

I don't think that's really it either. All novel software is mathematically provably a combination of different pieces of prior art software. It isn't possible to say that x part is the novel piece and y part is the prior art piece, because the only way either one can be novel on its own is if that part is itself a novel combination of other non-novel parts. So all software patents (or maybe just all patents) are necessarily combination patents, and the combination rather than the individual parts is what has to be novel and non-obvious. It sounds like all the Jepson claim would really do is point out that a particular sub-combination was also in the prior art, which doesn't really change much other than to maybe make it easier to find novelty destroying prior art. And other than that, if the claims cover the same subject matter then it doesn't really change the outcome.

Moreover, I don't really think the problem is what patent lawyers do. That's their job; to get the broadest allowable claims. But I certainly think the patent office and the courts ought to really consider narrowing the scope of the broadest allowable claims, if software patents are to be allowed at all. Just raising the non-obviousness bar a few notches would go a long way.

Really it seems like the issue is that the bulk of the software patents that are considered non-obvious are both non-obvious and inevitable. It's kind of an odd situation: On one hand, there is not really any reason to expect anyone to come up with a particular invention which turns out to have good properties outside of the realm of "let's add all five hundred of the features everybody wants and hey, now all the claim limitations happen to be present" without an understanding of the specific benefit that comes from combining a particular subset. So it's "not obvious." On the other hand, so many people are arbitrarily combining so many different things that the chances of somebody coming up with it by accident become so large as to approach a certainty. And that isn't the sort of situation the patent system is designed to be able to deal with, so it falls over.

Re: the uncertainty, you can get no more certainty that you don't infringe than you can that someone hasn't copied unlicensed code into your codebase. You can take steps to address the latter, e.g., code monitoring and review, but you never really know unless you have a development team of one - yourself. That's a risk of doing business. You can mitigate the risk - for code hire a code scrubber (which admittedly has a finite data set to compare against), and for patents get a freedom to operate opinion - but you'll never be free of the uncertainty. I don't know what to tell you.

I don't think the problem of people copying unlicensed copyrighted code is really all that serious. I mean sure, the probability of it happening is nonzero and it's worth taking cost effective countermeasures, but it's totally manageable. It only happens if somebody actually affirmatively breaks the rules.

The issue with software patents is there is just nothing you can do about them. Even if nobody copies anything, you're still almost certainly infringing something. And how do you write a freedom to operate opinion for something as large as, say, Android? It's tens of millions of lines of code without the Linux kernel.

As a final question: where are all the stories of big companies completely crushing the little guys in legal fees? Everyone throws it around as a problem, but it seems that more often than not the big companies are fighting each other or the trolls are going after the big guys. I know David and Goliath battles are academically possible, but where are they in reality? I'm not even looking for a case cite; I'm looking for even just a news article that says Company X was a big meanie and used its patents to crush li'l ol' Y. It's bandied about as a scary possibility; I just want to see a real-world example of it.

The trouble is that the news headline is just going to read "X buys Y for $Z million" because it happens under NDA and that is the end result. All the larger company has to do is approach the smaller company under the auspices of buying them out, get the smaller company to agree to sign an NDA and hear them out, and then the larger company can explain that the smaller company is infringing a mountain of its patents and so it had better accept the offer. To a bunch of college kids in a start up the offer looks like big money even though the first to market advantage is worth a hundred times that much to the major company, and what the patent threat does is make sure the kids don't get any ideas about staying in business for themselves instead of taking the buy out.

Comment Re:Yet Another Reason... (Score 1) 214

But if you don't use the protected functionality, then you don't infringe. I can import java.util.*, but if I don't actually implement anything from that library, I'm not really including everything, and I'm not performing any combinations.

Oh sure, you have to actually instantiate something, but that's easy. I mean let's say I'm writing my application. It's a remote system logging thing. I need networking support. I'm not going to go out and write a new operating system with a novel network stack and a driver for every network card I expect people to use. I just use the sockets library.

Now I've got support for every kind of network there is on every operating system that supports the sockets library. It doesn't matter whether the claim limitation says "over a wireless network," "over a local area network," "on a high latency low bandwidth connection," "over an unreliable network link," "with a network offload processor," or "on a virtual private network," it covers the users of my application. It supports all of those things, and at least one of my million users is going to do each of them. Every one of those limitations and then some collapse to "uses the sockets library," and everything uses the sockets library.

On top of that, it makes claim limitations trivial to implement, which severely dilutes their ability to separate invention from random chance. If there is some feature (which would satisfy a limitation), and you can add it to your program by just importing a library and writing a hundred lines of code, why wouldn't you do it? So people do.

Try this experiment: Pick a collection of software patents at random in the area of, say, smart phones. Pick some individual claim limitations (not the whole claim, just a single limitation) at random and see if a Droid or an iPhone would satisfy the limitation. If you find that the answer is 'yes' more times than not, you can see the problem: Most of the "limitations" aren't really limitations because they're universal or nearly so.

Getting back to your examples, the businesses could cooperate without patents, but if you were going to pick a horse in the race, wouldn't you want the horse that can stop other horses from running?

Sure, if you have a patent system then any given entity will be better off having patents than not. What I'm saying is that the absence of software patents wouldn't hurt them any, because it wouldn't stop them cooperating with one another, and its presence does hurt them because having two patents against Apple's thousand really isn't materially better than having just the one. They'll still get crushed when push comes to shove, and it doesn't much help to stop the other horse from running when your horse is dead.

Patents are by their nature anti-competitive; they grant monopolies, which can lead to injunctions (except as to patent trolls. Patent trolls can't get injunctions thanks to the eBay decision). Developers don't like this anti-competitive aspect. That seems to be the issue; it tells them what they can't do.

I don't think that's really it. I mean don't dismiss the legitimacy of that complaint: We're supposed to be promoting innovation here. Creating a million pages of things that everybody can't do is probably not the best way to accomplish that.

But the real issue is the uncertainty. There is no seer you can go consult to get a concise list of software patents that you need to avoid or design around. It isn't that somebody is telling them what they can't do, it's that nobody can tell them what they can't do. The problem is not that Microsoft has got this one, amazing patent where they truly invented something great and you just can't figure out how to compete with them without infringing it. The problem is that they've got a thousand vague, questionable patents and can bury you in legal fees until you capitulate.

Comment Re:Evil Monopoly (Score 3, Insightful) 314

Say what you want about Apple, they *do* spend billions researching new technology. And they should be allowed to recover that money.

You're ignoring the fact that they already have. Apple is about as far from losing money on the iPhone as you can possibly get, and the patent lawsuits have had nothing to do with that.

They were told by their lawyers not to create Dalvik without a licensing agreement with Sun, but they ignored the advice.

You are referring to this email by Tim Lindholm, who is not a lawyer. Moreover, the context of the email is not 'if we use Dalvik we will need a license to Java,' it is 'I think we should just use Java.'

And now their getting their ass handed to them in court

Any evidence of that?

Comment Re:Evil Monopoly (Score 5, Informative) 314

If you know anything about game theory you know that the optimal strategy depends on the behavior of the other participants. For example, if there is one company that is offering a high quality product for a low price, competitors must do the same thing or no one will buy from them. However, there is a technique called "conscious parallelism" that allows companies to screw over their customers in concert with each other without actually having any formal agreement (which would violate the antitrust laws), and it works like this: One company raises their prices, or imposes some new restriction, or offers a shorter warranty, etc. As soon as they announce this, every other company in the industry does the same thing, with the expectation that as long as they all do it, customers will have no choice but to go along with it. Then all the companies benefit and all the customers are screwed.

This doesn't work if any one of the companies decides that they would rather compete on the merits by offering a quality product for a low price, because naturally all of the other companies that don't want to compete on the merits will lose customers to them (which is why company that doesn't join the implicit cartel wants to do it). This is why you see everybody trying to fight Google: They're offering decent products basically for free, which screws up the whole cartel dynamic, so they have to be "punished" by all the people who want to use conscious parallelism to line their pockets rather than working hard to earn honest money.

I mean look at what they've done to the whole curated computing scheme: If your only choice was between Apple's app store and Microsoft's, and you could only make that choice once every two years when you get a new device, and they both used all the same terms as one another and slowly made them more onerous... think about all the money those two would be able to extract from customers and software developers once they had them by the short hairs like that. But Google is upsetting the Apple cart, so to speak, because allowing developers to reach users outside of the "official" channels means that the different app stores have to compete with one another on the merits. Apple can't start ratcheting up their own margins because if they do then more users and developers will go to Android, where there are several markets and Apple can't expect everyone to follow their lead on pricing. Hence the litigation.

So I guess what I'm saying is, companies don't inherently have to screw over their customers, but if they choose to buck the trend then they can capture a majority market share... at the cost of having to deal with a bunch of sore losers flinging lawsuits at them.

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