Microsoft Patent for using XML with WordProcessing

Discussion in 'NZ Computing' started by Cheetah, Jan 25, 2004.

  1. Cheetah

    Cheetah Guest

    First a brief explanation of what is and is not patented. Storing a word
    processing document in XML is not patented. Rather it is the Schema of the
    XML file which is being patented, or perhaps more correctly the method of
    storing data such as images and objects within the XML.

    Microsoft has been kind enough to release the schema under an almost open
    source license. In fact all they require is that you add a notice in your
    license showing that your product contains MS IP, and that you don't sue
    Microsoft regarding the schema. In fact the license has plenty in common
    with ealier BSD licenses.

    So have Microsoft turned into open source lovers? Not quite. The clue is in
    the FAQ where they mention that the license is compatible with many
    licenses from the OSI. However, most critically the license may not be
    compatible with the license Microsofts biggest office productivity rival -
    OpenOffice.org, which uses a duel license including the GPL.

    Because access to MS-XML files would require infringement of the patent or a
    valid license, and the GPL cannot be altered to accomodate, it might be
    that GPL office productivity applications will not be able to access MS
    word processing files.

    http://nzoss.org.nz/portal/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=290

    [note] The above is a brief analysis of publically available information. I
    have not had lawyers look over the situation yet so it is not legal advice
    - not that you would come to a newsgroup for that anyway. Would you?
     
    Cheetah, Jan 25, 2004
    #1
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  2. Cheetah

    Peter Guest

    Cheetah wrote:
    <snip>
    > Because access to MS-XML files would require infringement of the patent or
    > a valid license, and the GPL cannot be altered to accomodate, it might be
    > that GPL office productivity applications will not be able to access MS
    > word processing files.
    > http://nzoss.org.nz/portal/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=290


    Once again, Microsoft is abusing its monopoly position to exclude
    competitors.
    MS Office includes read/write tools for competing formats (like WordPerfect
    and Lotus), so MS looks rather hypocritical.

    What more does Bill Gates want - a knighthood?
    Oh yeah, he's already bought one of those ...
    http://tinyurl.com/2teet
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/mai...ml&sSheet=/portal/2004/01/25/ixportaltop.html


    Peter
     
    Peter, Jan 25, 2004
    #2
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  3. Cheetah

    Cheetah Guest

    Peter wrote:

    > Once again, Microsoft is abusing its monopoly position to exclude
    > competitors.


    Well yes I suppose - but in a rather clever fashion. The license is in fact
    quite reasonable. I would for example be dubious about being critical of
    say the BSD license - which is in fact quite similar to the new MS license.
    The fact is that for most projects this is no problem - they can develop
    and sell competing products, or even develop open source implementations
    around thier own license.

    It is only a potential problem for the GPL. Whats interesting is that it
    almost says as much on the MS FAQ on the license - it goes about as far as
    it can without saying "GPL". This, and other statements from MS about the
    GPL lead me to believe that a conflict may have been engineered. However
    this is just an *opinion*.

    It is no secret that MS are perfectly happy with BSD style licenses that
    don't prohibit MS from plundering code without any contributions back to
    the community, however the GPL is actually very effective in enforcing
    freedom. It is in their interests to weaken the GPL.

    Additionally, there is nothing stopping MS from changing license terms in
    the future for new versions of the XSD that they may introduce. Ultimatly
    what isn't in question is that if the patent is successfull MS will control
    interoperability with their applications. They may not charge for it - and
    perhaps not even restrict it for now. However the simple fact that they
    control it is concern enough.

    Take the Unisys LZH patent for example - they let is lie for years, and then
    tried to enforce it on those who didn't know they were infringing. What
    about MS patents on FAT and their recent attempt to license it? We do not
    want to be in a position where interoperability depends on the good grace
    of a company who has proved time and time again (Dr DOS, Netscape, Stacker,
    Java) that it is prepared to be very agressive to serve its own interests.



    Funny thing is I don't bear a grudge against Microsoft. Longer term I think
    we will see MS-Linux Server. Perhaps not before Longhorn, but perhaps
    after. I just don't think they can survive trying to duplicate the Linux
    core effort.

    I'm going to make a wild prediction:


    Microsoft will continue to loose market share in the server market, and will
    also see its primary earners - Windows and Office - revenue eroded both by
    being forced to reduce prices to compete with Open Source, and by reducing
    market shares.

    This will drive Microsoft to create a version of Linux that has its own GUI
    on top instead of X11 and KDE/Gnome. They will make a Wine like interface
    that allows Windows applications to run on top of this new product, and
    they will port their dotNET to the platform. They will essentially get out
    of the core OS business to provide administration and GUI tools. On the
    desktop they will be forced to sell MS-Office at much lower prices on
    Linux.

    In ten years time I figure they will continue to retain 50% market share -
    perhaps a little better or worse - and will be somewhat like IBM, in that
    they will no longer hold a dominant position, but will once more be
    providing value to their customers because the drivers of customer value
    will once more be important.

    I suspect that the transition will be painfull, since it will mean lower
    revenue and profits for MS, staff reductions, and a cultural change within
    the company itself much like IBM went through. However, ultimatly they will
    survive.

    However, I believe they will "see the light" of open source, and begin to
    provide at least some input into core Linux itself. Not tommorow tho - I'm
    thinking of sometime in the next five years - after Longhorn is delivered.

    Those looking for a quick death for MS will be waiting a while.
     
    Cheetah, Jan 25, 2004
    #3
  4. Cheetah

    peter Guest

    Cheetah wrote:
    <snip>
    > I'm going to make a wild prediction:
    >
    > Microsoft will continue to loose market share in the server market, and
    > will also see its primary earners - Windows and Office - revenue eroded
    > both by being forced to reduce prices to compete with Open Source, and by
    > reducing market shares.

    <snip>
    > In ten years time I figure they will continue to retain 50% market share -
    > perhaps a little better or worse - and will be somewhat like IBM, in that
    > they will no longer hold a dominant position, but will once more be
    > providing value to their customers because the drivers of customer value
    > will once more be important.


    I hope you're right, because that would mean a competitive market, which
    means vigorous innovation and better value for consumers.

    Even a superficial study of history of science shows that technical and
    scientific progress is through incremental and collaborative work by many
    different individuals. But the current business trend is in the opposite
    direction, to change laws like copyright and patent so as to stop such
    collaborative and interactive efforts, and to concentrate power and wealth
    in very few corporates. (Patents don't promote innovation, quite the
    opposite, eg see http://swpat.ffii.org/ and www.fightthepatent.co.nz.)

    So actions to prevent interoperability (like Microsoft's proprietary file
    formats) will inhibit collaborative work and innovation. I guess they hope
    to further concentrate wealth and market power in their hands, which would
    be a selfish and short sighted approach.

    So, I hope MS does have 50% market share in a few years, as it will mean
    choice for customers. Unfortunately trends seem to be in the other
    direction.

    BTW - this book is in stores currently, and is a good read; "Science A
    History" by John Gribbin, Penguin 2002.


    Peter
     
    peter, Jan 25, 2004
    #4
  5. Cheetah

    madknoxie Guest

    In article <bNLQb.18838$>,
    Cheetah <> wrote:

    > However, I believe they will "see the light" of open source, and begin to
    > provide at least some input into core Linux itself. Not tommorow tho - I'm
    > thinking of sometime in the next five years - after Longhorn is delivered.
    >
    > Those looking for a quick death for MS will be waiting a while.


    I think even your 5-10 year prediction is a little too soon. I believe
    we would only see any transition or change in the market after Bill
    dies. The guy is a genious when it comes to strategy, and I haven't seen
    much evidence that OSS is hurting their bottom line. It seems that every
    effort by the open-source community has been counter-acted by some
    method of extracting more revenue from existing customers...

    Besides, they are sitting on a massive cash mountain ($40billion, IIRC),
    that would be pretty hard to peter out over a 5-10 year period.

    Imagine the interest on $40 billion...

    --
    madknoxie
    "...Microsoft is copying us again, and it feels great."
    - Steve Jobs, Macworld '04 keynote address
     
    madknoxie, Jan 25, 2004
    #5
  6. Cheetah

    AD. Guest

    On Sun, 25 Jan 2004 19:10:27 +1300, Cheetah wrote:

    > Because access to MS-XML files would require infringement of the patent or
    > a valid license, and the GPL cannot be altered to accomodate, it might be
    > that GPL office productivity applications will not be able to access MS
    > word processing files.


    I haven't fully investigated, but could that be worked around by getting a
    BSD licensed project to write filters for MS XML formats (and other
    formats too?).

    GPL apps could then just call the BSD app to open/convert the docs for
    them?

    The GPL apps would then only have to be concerned with the 'open' formats
    that the BSD app exports. Another benefit being that open source projects
    wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel whenever document conversion functions
    are needed.

    Would that work?

    Cheers
    Anton
     
    AD., Jan 25, 2004
    #6
  7. Cheetah

    Cheetah Guest

    madknoxie wrote:

    > I think even your 5-10 year prediction is a little too soon. I believe
    > we would only see any transition or change in the market after Bill
    > dies. The guy is a genious when it comes to strategy, and I haven't seen
    > much evidence that OSS is hurting their bottom line.


    I should probably provide a little basis for my prediction. I write little
    artificial life games. They evolve various simple agents over time on a
    simulated environment. It doesn't take long for a certain species of agent
    to take over, where they will be dominant for quite some time.

    Mutants appear all the time, but few survive more than one or two
    generations. Occationally a mutant will grow a small population an appear
    to be doing well before dying out. The third class of agent are those that
    grow slowly at first, and then suddenly take off.

    Within successfull agents there are generally two classes of 'better'. The
    first class is agents which are better suited to a certain environment.
    Because they are able to survive in a new area they don't compete with the
    old species for resources. The second class are generally able to
    outcompete the old species.

    So what do we see in Linux?

    Linux does not live in the same space as Windows. It certainly is not a
    tradisional desktop OS, but it isn't big iron either. As Sun discovered to
    its horror, Linux is actually a better competitor in the low end server
    area. Linux has really grown in this area, but has been blocked in the
    desktop area because it is not quite as fit as Windows currently.

    Linux is a fast mutator however - this is part of the evolutionary
    development model - and Linux on the desktop continues to encroach onto the
    desktop. When Linux is "ready for the desktop" everyone will know it - in a
    similar way to Linux killing Sun servers, Linux will kill the desktop
    monopoly of Windows. It will force Microsoft to lower prices while at the
    same time reducing Microsoft market share - much like Microsoft did to its
    competitors when it started.

    The general pattern is very fast. Once you reach a certain level of fitness
    the opposition cannot resist. We are not there yet, and it is difficult to
    say when it will occur.

    Of course, a similar evolutionary competition is going on with OpenOffice,
    and as we have seen MS are trying to put barriers up so mitigate the coming
    onslaught. Of course such a strategy is pointless if you understand
    evolutionary arms races - OpenOffice will adapt (can you say Borg), as will
    Linux to the Desktop market.


    The consequence of this will be irrecocable loss of revenue for Microsoft. I
    expect that the actual transition when it occurs will take perhaps six
    month at most, and that Microsoft will face a halfing of its real revenue.
    We will not be able to predict in advance when this will occur, but I
    estimate that it will occur some time over the next five years.

    The loss of revenue will cause it first losses ever. This will cause some
    rather interesting internal difficulties, as they have linked company
    performance to employee renumeration. Many employees will need to be
    sacrificed, and significant restructuring will be needed. In fact it will
    look like the IBM bust where it lost about $6 Billion in a single year.

    However, MS does have a big pool of cash, and it is improbable that even a
    drop in revenue of 50% would put Microsoft under. Like Linux Microsoft
    would adapt to the new reality.

    As it would be loosing the war against Linux, and had lost its monopoly it
    will try to make good with the OSS community. After perhaps a year or two
    of this restructing Microsoft will once more be profitable, but will no
    longer be a monopoly. They will just be another computer vendor - one which
    will be much more in touch with its users. Its market share will be
    somewhere between 60-40%. And it will have become another Linux distributor
    - although one with an interesting mix of technology on top.

    > Besides, they are sitting on a massive cash mountain ($40billion, IIRC),
    > that would be pretty hard to peter out over a 5-10 year period.


    The cash mountain won't be able to buy long term revenue and market share.
    From my perspective this whole thing is like watching the titanic sink. If
    you know the dynamics there is little uncertainty involved.

    Linux and OpenOffice are getting better every day, and sooner or later they
    will achieve a point where they will be "good enough" to replace Windows
    and Office. The consequence of this on MS is just math.

    Like all good predictions I have followed the prescription of telling you
    what you want to hear, making obvious links and outragous claims that
    nobody expects to come true. Lets see in 2009 if my prediction came to
    pass...
     
    Cheetah, Jan 26, 2004
    #7
  8. Cheetah

    madknoxie Guest

    In article <wNYQb.18926$>,
    Cheetah <> wrote:

    > madknoxie wrote:
    >
    > > I think even your 5-10 year prediction is a little too soon. I believe
    > > we would only see any transition or change in the market after Bill
    > > dies. The guy is a genious when it comes to strategy, and I haven't seen
    > > much evidence that OSS is hurting their bottom line.

    >
    >*snip*
    >
    > Like all good predictions I have followed the prescription of telling you
    > what you want to hear, making obvious links and outragous claims that
    > nobody expects to come true. Lets see in 2009 if my prediction came to
    > pass...


    I agree, lets wait and see, I'll even bet you $10 that they outlast 2009
    :)

    I think its important not to confuse fitness with market share. I think
    its already been proved quite well that the fitter or better product
    doesn't always win. It won't matter if Linux becomes fitter (people
    argue it already is) because that doesn't automatically mean bigger
    market share.

    Where does Apple fit into this? Its light years ahead of M$ :)

    --
    madknoxie
    "...Microsoft is copying us again, and it feels great."
    - Steve Jobs, Macworld '04 keynote address
     
    madknoxie, Jan 26, 2004
    #8
  9. Cheetah

    Peter KERR Guest

    In article <>,
    madknoxie <> wrote:
    >
    > Where does Apple fit into this? Its light years ahead of M$ :)
    >


    and building xml into the OS like there's no tomorrow...
     
    Peter KERR, Jan 26, 2004
    #9
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