Microsoft still forces companies to pay for its Android patents

Also in today's open source roundup: DistroWatch reviews Antergos 2016.02.21, and Linux and OS X are challenging the developer dominance of Windows

Microsoft still forces companies to pay for its Android patents
Credit: Thinkstock

Microsoft continues to force companies to pay for its Android patents

Microsoft has long sought to build credibility with the open source community, but it continues to shoot itself in the foot by forcing companies to pay for its Android patents. This has led some in the open source community to remain sour on Microsoft and its business practices.

SJVN reports for ZDNet:

There is, however, one thing that many open-source people agree keeps them from really trusting Microsoft: Its continued demand that Android vendors pay them for Android patents. As recently as early March, Microsoft signed on two more Android patent licensees.

Every time I write about a Microsoft open-source move, readers tell me that if Microsoft were really serious about being a good open-source citizen they'd stop forcing companies to pay for its bogus Android patents.

You see, thanks to China, we know what the 310 patents are that Microsoft uses against Android. According to M-Cam, a global financial institution that advises corporations and investors on corporate finance and asset allocation by underwriting intellectual property (IP) and intangible assets (IA), most of Microsoft's Android patents cover ideas that are "already part of the public domain."

In its last quarter, volume licensing and patents, accounted for approximately 9 percent of Microsoft's total revenue. And, that, of course, is why Microsoft is never going to stop charging for its Android patents. So long as the boys from Redmond can milk these patents for billions every year, they're going to keep them.

More at ZDNet

SJVN's story about Microsoft and its patents caught the attention of Linux redditors -- and they weren't shy about sharing their opinions about it:

Red Moon: "If MS can wipe other DBs of the linux playing field, then as long as all your linux DB servers are running SQLServer, why not get a big licensing break and run them all on windows?

Corporate culture doesn't change. They just have new EEE strategies."

Skidmark Steve: "One more reason to get Android devices from China, as if the lower prices for better specifications weren't already reason enough.

I'm a happy user of a $160 unlocked, carrier-free phone that features 1080p, 2GB RAM, 13MP camera, 3000mAh battery, 16GB nand, micro-sd supporting 128GB cards.

Nothing I can get on this side of the pond competes with the specifications of this for the price."

Patented Enemy: "Doesn't some money go to Microsoft when you buy an SD card formatted as exFAT? (pretty much every large SD card out there)"

Bill Fold Dog: "I keep hearing that these are 'bogus' patents, but I never hear why people think that. I can't criticize Microsoft for profiting off of its own development.

So I'll ask, why are these patents 'bogus,' and why does Microsoft not deserve to profit from their use?"

Im A Koala: "For me at least, the fact that they won't even say what they are is the real problem. They basically go to companies, say "we have patents on this, pay us or we'll use them", and nobody wants to call their bluff on it."

RMS Returns: "MS are basically leveraging their existing Windows infrastructure to bully the smaller OEMs. Now, its well known that massive amounts of Windows/MSOffice piracy happens in China and far east, but MS is never going after the average John Does. But the small and big OEMs, on the other hand, are easy to target and bully around as they are also dependent on MS for selling pre-installed Windows laptops apart from Android phones.

When MS bullies a minnow like Asus/HTC, its not just about the Android patents, but also the huge potential loss in their business as MS will start charging them exorbitantly high on the Windows bulk licenses if they fail to comply. Asus/HTC obviously cannot afford to do that as they won't be able to sell Windows laptops if that happens."

Squeaky: "I am of opposed to the whole idea of software patents.

Software is the only thing to be covered by multiple kinds of intellectual property protection. Writing has copyright, branding has trademark, Devices have patents and Recipe/Business processes have trade secrets. Software source code is copyrightable, in some jurisdictions software can be patented, and somehow software can also be be covered by trade secrets.

Copyright has a long history of protecting software, having strong verifiability, and difficulty to be abused. Closed sourced algorithms can be covered by trade secret laws, though I am unaware of any cases using or abusing this. Software patent are vague, obviously open to abuse and hard to defend when legitimate. Like the rest of the patents they are interpreted by non-experts, but software is an expert domain that is hard to understand active effort in understanding. Look at any ruling coming from Texas.

I am unaware of any real defense using software patents, but I am aware of tons of abuse and viable alternatives."

Bill Fold Dog: "The defense for software patents is the same as the defense for drug patents. The limited period of exclusive use creates a financial incentive to innovate.

However, the same 20 year window for software is certainly not appropriate."

Enlightenment 777: "Microsoft can't milk it forever, because all patents run out eventually."

More at Reddit

DistroWatch reviews Antergos 2016.02.21

Antergos is a distribution based on Arch Linux. Arch Linux can be a bit of a bear for some folks to install and configure, but Antergos makes running Arch easier by providing a desktop-oriented version of Arch right out of the box. DistroWatch did a full review of Antergos 2016.02.21 and mostly liked it.

Jesse Smith reports for DistroWatch:

I was impressed with the features Antergos brings to the table. There is a lot of cutting-edge software included in the distribution. Antergos worked well in both of my test environments, has a very friendly system installer and lots of useful features. I especially like how the project ships one ISO image and we can select our desktop and add-ons from the Cnchi installer. This gives us a good deal of flexibility without cluttering up the project's download page with extra editions.

I was also happy to see Antergos supports both Btrfs and ZFS as both are useful, advanced file systems. This may be the first Linux desktop distribution I have encountered which supports ZFS at install time.

However, on the other hand, I occasionally ran into problems. Usually small things, but ones that made Antergos feel less polished. For example, I mentioned earlier that asking the installer to place our /home partition on its own ZFS sub-volume would cause /home to not be mounted at all. Also, while most ZFS functions worked, listing volumes and snapshots did not, which puts a damper on some of the more useful ZFS functions. The Steam gaming portal did not work for me and Totem was unable to play my video files and I had to install an alternate media player. Most configuration modules worked beautifully, particularly the printer manager, but the firewall utility failed to launch.

I think the Antergos project is doing some interesting things and the developers are providing a great deal of flexibility combined with cutting edge software. Personally, I wish there was an off-line version of the Cnchi installer so I did not need to wait so long for packages to download each time I installed the distribution. And I did run into a few problems. However, overall I liked Antergos. The distribution is fast, easy to customize and provides access to a huge repository of software via the main repositories and Arch Linux's AUR community repository.

More at DistroWatch

Linux and OS X challenge Windows' developer dominance

Windows has long lorded it over OS X and Linux when it comes to the sheer number of developers on that platform. However, things may be changing according to a StackOverflow survey that indicates many developers favor OS X or Linux these days.

Mihăiță Bamburic reports for BetaNews:

OS X and Linux are nowhere near as popular as Windows when we look at the PC market as a whole, but the two platforms are actually extremely popular with a certain crowd. According to a StackOverflow survey, 26.2 percent of developers use Apple's Mac operating system, while distributions based on the open-source kernel are not that far behind, having a combined 21.7 percent usage share.

This may come as a bit of a shock, but, yes, OS X and Linux are nearly as popular as Windows among developers. In fact, according to StackOverflow, "If OS adoption rates hold steady, by next year's survey fewer than 50 percent of developers may be using Windows" -- and, obviously, OS X and Linux will come out even more popular in the process.

However, right now, Windows 7 is the most popular operating system, with 22.5 percent usage share. Windows 10 follows closely from behind, being used by 20.8 percent of developers. Interestingly enough, 8.4 percent of developers say that they are using Windows 8, with the numbers falling to 0.4 percent and 0.1 percent in the case of Windows Vista and Windows XP, respectively.

While StackOverflow does not offer a breakdown for OS X releases, it has revealed which Linux distributions are most popular with developers. Unsurprisingly, Ubuntu takes first place with 12.3 percent usage share (of the whole market, not just Linux), followed by Debian with 1.9 percent, Mint with 1.7 percent and Fedora with 1.7 percent usage share.

More at BetaNews

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