FOSS Week in Review
Obama disarms Samsung
An already unlevel playing field just became more tilted as far as patents are concerned. We are shaking our head sadly, remembering we once had high hopes for Obama.
It seems like forever now that Samsung and Apple have been trying their best to sue each other out of existence. Well, Apple’s probably been trying to sue Samsung out of business. Samsung would probably like for Apple to stick around, since in addition to being an adversary in this patent war, the folks from Cupertino are also good Samsung customers. We think Samsung probably just wants to be left alone.
But we stray from the point.
In June, Samsung won a key ruling against Apple, a ruling that was going to cost Apple the right to sell some of their products in the U.S. The International Trade Commission said two iPhone models and two iPad models infringed Samsung patents and banned their import or sale.
But will not take place. Although administration after administration stood helplessly with their fingers stuck some place stinky when U.S. corporations shipped jobs overseas because government can’t interfere with free trade, Obama has decided that free trade should be damned when it’s hurting the bottom line of those same corporations. In other words, jobs for the middle class aren’t to be protected but profits for Apple and AT&T…you get the picture.
As reported by Reuters, all players are standing in their respective corners and staying completely on script:
“U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman on Saturday vetoed the ban, saying his decision was in part based on its ‘effect on competitive conditions in the U.S. economy and the effect on U.S. consumers.’ He said Samsung could continue to pursue its case through the courts.
“Samsung said it was ‘disappointed’ at the lifting of the ban. ‘The ITC’s decision correctly recognized that Samsung has been negotiating in good faith and that Apple remains unwilling to take a license,’ it said in a statement.
“Apple welcomed the news and applauded the administration ‘for standing up for innovation.’ It added, ‘Samsung was wrong to abuse the patent system in this way.’”
We are especially keen on Froman’s feigned concern for the proposed ban’s “effect on U.S. consumers.” Evidently studies have been done that have proved that the American psyche would be irrevocably damaged if we couldn’t buy old, outdated versions of Apple products. Oh, did we forget to tell you that this ban is on Apple devices that are all at least a year old?
Apple and the administration would have us believe this whole case revolves around exorbitant licensing fees on “standard essential patents” or patents that cover what have become industry standards. That might be true to a degree–but we smell a bit of our old friend protectionism at play here.
The guys from Korea can be forgiven for thinking they’ve been playing in a crooked casino with a deck stacked against them. In another ITC decision handed down Friday, the agency ruled that some Samsung devices infringed on Apple patents and ordered a ban on the Samsung devices. Although most reports are saying the ban affects only older Samsung products, CNN speculated that some current models might be affected as well:
“The ITC banned Samsung from importing or selling some devices that infringe on the Apple patents. While the devices Apple mentioned in the case are older Samsung products — like the Galaxy Tab 7 tablet and the Continuum smartphone — the ITC’s ruling could have implications for phones currently on the market that use the same technology.
“But Samsung has the chance to release software updates to work around the infringement — for example, customers would still use multitouch the same way they always did, but Samsung would change how that worked from a technical perspective.”
Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to collect patent payments from nearly everyone using Android, without proving a thing.
Carrier interest in Ubuntu grows
Although Canonical’s fundraising efforts for the Ubuntu Edge don’t appear to be on track, it still seems as if the world’s most well known GNU/Linux distro is definitely going to be a mobile player on some level. On Monday, VAR Guy Linux guru Christopher Tozzi observed that the number of major wireless carrier’s signed up for Canonical’s Carrier Advisory Group (CAG) now stands at thirteen. Mr. Tozzi points out that although joining this group doesn’t necessarily represent a commitment to Ubuntu Touch, the feat is nonetheless impressive:
“Still, the fact that Canonical has succeeded in enticing such big-name mobile carriers to extend serious attention to Ubuntu as a mobile platform for the masses is significant. It’s a sign that they can envision Ubuntu playing a role in disrupting the Android-iOS-Windows Phone triptych that currently dominates the mobile world, and that they’re prepared to give it committed backing if it appears market-ready.”
There’s no need to scratch your head over Mr. Tozzi’s inclusion of Windows Phone as being a dominate player in the mobile world. His site caters to “value added resellers,” most of whom make a great deal of money hawking Redmond’s products–he’s just making sure he doesn’t bite the hand that’s feeding him. This is unfortunate because it was unnecessary and it damages his credibility. Pity.
Windows Phone shipments up 77% in second quarter
Then again, maybe Mr. Tozzi let his elation overcome his common sense when research firm IDC announced that shipments of handsets running Redmond’s finest jumped 77% when comparing the second quarter of this year with the second quarter of last year. That means that Windows Phones now have a whopping 3.7% market share.
Reading the report of the report on CNET was like reading a press release from Microsoft:
“‘Last quarter we witnessed Windows Phone shipments surpassing BlackBerry and the trend has continued into the second quarter,’ Ryan Reith, program manager with IDC’s Mobility Tracker programs, said in a statement. ‘Nokia has clearly been the driving force behind the Windows Phone platform and we expect that to continue. However, as more and more vendors enter the smartphone market using the Android platform, we expect Windows Phone to become a more attractive differentiator in this very competitive market segment.’”
This is the same IDC that in 2002 conducted a study “proving” the total cost of ownership (TCO) of Windows servers to be less than Linux, which at the time drew this response from the Register:
“Windows 2000 servers are cheaper to run than Linux ones, sometimes, says an IDC study which was by strange coincidence sponsored by Microsoft. The study will come as welcome relief to Microsoft salespeople who have been parroting the ‘cheaper than Linux’ line to general disbelief, but whether anyone else will believe it is another matter.”
This is also the same IDC that just last summer predicted the sales of Windows Phone to be higher than the iPhone by 2016. Communities Dominate Brands had this to say about that:
“Shame on you IDC, shame on you! This is unworthy of you, no matter how much money Microsoft and Nokia have paid you. Because no facts in the handset space, none whatsoever, provide any basis for your ‘prediction’. It is not even plausible. Besides, isn’t this the same IDC which promised that Windows Phone would sell 30 million units in 2011 (the actual total was a little bit below that – 5.3 million – that was one of the worst forecasts in smartphone history)”
We can’t help but wonder how a respectable news outfit like CNET can consider IDC a credible source. But don’t worry, the death of newspapers won’t hurt the quality of the news we get one iota. No so long as Winston Smith has a telescreen job.
Perhaps one of the reasons behind the outstanding growth of the Windows Phone is the plethora of apps available for the OS. Imagine this–a full 54% of the top apps for iOS and Android are available for Windows. The folks at Microsoft are determined to keep that number rising, so they’re constantly coming up with new incentive programs. According to CNET, the latest is called App Builder Rewards:
“…the new program rewards people with points for accomplishing certain tasks, such as creating apps, attending events, and publishing apps to the Windows Store and Windows Phone Store. In return, those points can be swapped for actual items, such as a licensed copy of Windows 8, a couple of Xbox games, or a Windows Store developer account.”
Wow! A licensed copy of Windows 8! Where do we sign up? We haven’t owned a licensed copy of anything from Microsoft since we bought a copy of MS-DOS 6.22 from an Egghead Software store. That was a few years ago, as we remember.
Ubuntu ‘App Showdown’ for Touch
Not to be outdone by the folks in Redmond, Mark Shuttleworth is also looking to have apps ported or created for Ubuntu Touch. Knowing he probably wouldn’t get many takers if he just offered a licensed copy of the latest and greatest Ubuntu, he’s upped the ante. According to LinuxUser, he’s going to be giving away some pretty cool hardware:
“Three prizes are up for grabs in two categories – Original Apps and Ported Apps. Two Nexus 4s with Ubuntu Touch pre-installed will be given for the two best original apps, whereas one of the phones will be available to those with the best ported app. All prize winners will also be given the chance to work with the Ubuntu Design and Engineering team, which will help you get your app into Ubuntu Touch at launch as part of the platform.”
Wowie-Zowie! It’s too bad we don’t write code. We’d love to get our hands on one of those.
End of life for the ‘blink’ tag
Here’s a throwback to the days of Netscape Navigator. Mozilla is ending support for the “blink” tag, which made text blink on and off, sort of like those old neon lights from the 1930s. During most of the Internet age it’s been a pretty useless tag since IE quit supporting it early on, if they ever supported it at all. Some of you may have forgotten, there was a time between about 2000 and 2004 when code that wasn’t compatible with Internet Explorer was considered a waste of time, since the MS browser had about 85% of the browser market.
Anyway, the “blink” tag is gone.
Malware for GNU/Linux
PCWorld reported yesterday that there’s a trojan called “Hand of Thief” that specifically targets Linux. Evidently it does everything that good malware is supposed to do. It steals info from forms, opens up back doors and even tries to prevent antivirus updates. Evidently, anyone who wants to start a criminal enterprise can easily buy a copy, but it won’t come cheap:
“Hand of Thief is currently being sold in “closed cybercrime communities” for $2000, which includes free updates, writes Kessem. However, she adds, the upcoming addition of new web injection attack technology will push the price to $3000, and introduce a $550 fee for major version updates.”
Ironically, security experts say that because GNU/Linux online is spread so thin, this thing will have to be distributed by using phishing techniques. This is ironic because most Linux users are technically sophisticated enough to see a phishing expidention from miles away. We would say we wish the script kiddies good luck–but we don’t.
That does it for another week. We’ll see you next weekend with another Week in Review. Until then, may the FOSS be with you…