I think it’s high time I start yet another blog, after the last one has disappeared in the great free.fr cleanup.
My name is Hans Schmucker and I’m a student at the University of Applied Sciences, Heidelberg, Germany… while I’m not in a job yet, there are already quite a few things I’ve worked on and the number of people using my software, or using software that’s based on my code has probably well surpassed 10,000 (my little Patience game alone has well over 6,000 users per day, so 10,000 is a safe bet).
What else… hmm… my specialty right now is Web Application Development (can you spell AJAX 😉 ), but I’ve also worked quite a bit with C on mobile platforms ( Quest for example uses some of my code for the PalmOS backend).
So, now I want to offer you a quick look into the mind of a developer and PalmOS enthusiast 🙂
What to start with? Ah, recent events: Microsoft‘s Steve Ballmer threatening Linux users, that they might get sued for violating Microsoft’s patents.
To tell you the truth: Linux almost certainly violates Microsoft’s patents. Why? Because nowadays pretty much anything you do violates some patent, due to the sheer number of patents. And Microsoft certainly violates a few itself. The difference? Microsoft has thousands of patents, so if somebody wants to sue them, they just threaten to sue that company for violating their patents. It’s a pretty good ecosystem, that is if you have the money to register thousands of patents just so you can defend yourself… or in other words, if you don’t care about a million dollar just for patents that you’re never going to use.
That’s why Microsoft is pushing patents wherever they can: They are the winner in a system where the number of patents you have equals power.
The alternatives? Well, for example you could make patents more expensive for bigger companies. If a company has to sacrifice 0.5% of their profits for a patent, then they’ve got to be more careful. A smaller company on the other hand could at least apply for 5 patents each year to protect real inventions that they often can’t afford to protect right now.
But let’s get back to the topic at hand: Microsoft vs. Linux.
As I said before, Linux almost certainly violates Microsoft’s patents, so why does Microsoft not sue? Well, because whoever they sue would certainly question if Microsoft’s patents are valid and Microsoft prefers potentially invalid patents, that they can use for spreading FUD to no patents at all. While I’m not a lawyer, I know a thing or two about patents and there are two interesting points that the patent office is supposed to check before they grant a patent (sadly they never do): Originality and Significance.
Basically that means that you can’t patent something that’s been used before (like patenting algebra, although that has already happened) and you can’t patent something that’s trivial (although that has happened countless times as well).
Both points are fairly dangerous to Microsoft, because they can’t really claim any new inventions as far as Operating Systems are concerned. WindowsNT (that’s the basis for NT, 2000, XP and Vista) is basically an attempt to port Windows95 to a unix-like environment. Yes. Unix. The same system that Linux is based on. And their user interface: Well I won’t even go into much detail, but for example GEM looks way to similar and it’s a lot older.
I think I’ll stop here and let you think about it yourself. See you next time.