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back to article Word nemesis: Microsoft deliberately 'destroyed' our business

Word litigant i4i has claimed Microsoft worked to destroy its business while publicly touting its partner status. i4i said that Microsoft's inclusion of custom-XML editing in Word from 2003 usurped its own invention and relegated the company from mass-market player to mining the relatively smaller pharmaceutical sector. The …

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Well...

Sounds like i4i was dumped by the school jock captain after the sex got boring.

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Paris Hilton

Need it be said?

Partnering with Microsoft is like a pharmacy partnering with a drug cartel...even Paris would know better??

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Gates Horns

Playing chess with the devil

This all sounds VERY familiar. Over the years, many a would-be 'partner' have fallen foul of playing "let's be friendly and helpful" with MS - they either get bought out or (if it's cheaper) crushed.

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J 3
Alert

Really?

Their name is i4i, seriously? That way, everyone ends up blind...

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Microsoft BAU

Get friendly with someone whose software you need.

Call them a partner in public

Reverse engineer their tec h in private.

Install it in your products.

Tell them you never heard of them.

Job done.

*Anyone* in the software business who thinks MS is a "Friend" of theirs is misguided. Only the *most* savvy have got enough on MS to get them to play anywhere near "fair."

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Grenade

If the claim is true...

The lesson here is don't partner with Microsoft.

Then again, even if the claim is false there's enough evidence through the years to warn against partnering with Microsoft anyway.

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Didn't we see similiar behaviour...

...in the Stacker case many years ago.

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No Software Patents

Frankly, i4i should have known this; microsoft does what's good for microsoft.

As for the XML patent, I hope it is invalidated since a great deal more harm will come from it than anything else.

The public benefit of a patent comes from the industry having access to read how an invention works in exchange for a temporary monopoly to the patent holder. People forget that patents existed to benefit the public, and that companies were never entitled to them without fulfilling that benefit.

In the case of software patents though, there is no public benefit, and the trade off is unjustified.

For instance, I am a software developer and I have never seen a software patent worth reading for technical merit. All the times I've looked, including this i4i patent, it's clear the patents are written for lawyers rather than practitioners. More often than not, software patents are designed to enumerate all the possible ways to accomplish a result rather than produce a work which is genuinely innovative. Additionally my own opinion is that anything in the logical/mathematical realm should be excluded on the grounds that thoughts and algorithms should not be patentable (even if they happen to be implemented on a physical computer). In the end, software patents are largely worthless to the public when they finally become public domain years later.

Too many businesses assume that software patents are their fundamental right, but they really need to be re-evaluated in terms of their intended purpose - namely to benefit the public.

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What did you expect?

Welcome to the world of big business i4i.

Perhaps a less-nebulous patent may have been a better choice.

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Linux

why one company owning a ecosystem is bad

Another perfect example why if you do become too successful in the M$ ecosystem and come up with the next killer app M$ will crush you (See Netscape, Lotus 123, Wordperfect). That is one edge to GNU/Linux (and its brethen) in that no one entity can dominate the landscape. I agree both models have advantages and disadvantages but humanity having a truly open software ecosystems is one of the big success stories of the OSS movement.

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Joke

He who forgets...

...Stacker is doomed to be assimilated.

There's a popular joke in France : The wolf and the lamb shall dwell together, but one of them isn't going to get much sleep. (loosely adaptated from Coluche).

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NRT

Does anyone else remember......

...a company called Stac Electronics?

They also had a "partnership" deal with MS.

There are, of course, no similarities between the two cases.

Nick.

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ad nauseum.

Smells like Netscape all over again. I wonder if Microsoft is going to get away with it, yet again?

i4i is lucky that they have a couple other products, but this was their main one and Microsoft out and out stole it. I hope Microsoft isn't allowed to drag this out until i4i goes bankrupt, thus "winning" by default.

How many times must this company be allowed to do this sort of crap before someone, somewhere tells them that enough is enough and puts them out of business? If this was a person doing this they would be in jail by now. But because it's a corporation they're allowed to re-offend ad nauseum?

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Gates Horns

Who sups with the devil...

...needs a long spoon.

Anyone who "partners" with Mickey$haft deserves all they get.

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Stop

It's their own fault

I mean, how long have Microsoft been shafting their developers and partners now? It has been going on for years.

IBM, Stacker, Mosiac, Netscape come to mind straight away but there are many many others.

It used to be said "there are only two certainties in life, death and taxes". The unspoken third certainty is "if you deal with Microsoft you will get burned"

Why do companies continue to treat MS as a friend rather than the enemy that they really are?

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Nothing new here

Borland, Novell, IBM, anti-virus,...

MS will partner with you until they feel like wiping you out.

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Let's add Uniloc.

Quoted from Uniloc's site : 'April 15, 2009 - Uniloc USA Inc., the leader in device-based authentication solutions, today announced that it has won a six-year legal battle against Microsoft Corporation over the use of its patented anti-piracy product activation system. ... A federal court jury has ordered that Microsoft pay Uniloc $388 million in damages ... covering technology that generates unique identities for licensed users and prevents unauthorized use or copying of software. Microsoft deployed the technology in Windows XP and Microsoft Office XP programs.'

You can read more here:

http://www.abc.net.au/austory/content/2007/s2666148.htm

This Ozzie devastated MS big-time but it's only a fraction in MS's budget during that time frame.

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What??

"support for custom-XML constituted 90 per cent of the value to using XML and that custom-XML was 'the most important effort [it] did on XML in Office since ever"

What the hell are they talking about?

If i4i can be destroyed if someone else does its frankly-not-patentable idea, they have had a problem from the get-go. Cry me a river.

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Gates Horns

Shoulda watched the Simpsons

I quote 'buy him out, boys'

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FAIL

Sendo

One more to add to the list is the right royal screwing that Microsoft's to market partner for mobile phones suffered.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/01/06/microsofts_masterplan_to_screw_phone/

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Err...

Wasn't MS under a lot of pressure to get a functional XML document format into office? Why then would i4i be supprised that they developed one? Maybe they're just upset that they didn't get bought outright like sysinternals, visio, QDOS, the list goes on and on. Also, why would you sue MS when you can sue another company as a weaker and therefore easier (cheaper) target, thus establishing precedent for taking on MS.

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Microsoft went after pharmaceuticals, as well.

The patent is only vague if you believe it could be used to assert any claim to the XML functionality outside of the products it was designed to protect. It couldn't: it's a protective patent. i4i's assertion is that the patent described the functionality of a range of i4i products, which were knowingly and deliberately copied by Microsoft into Word. Following this move, Microsoft actively targeted ALL of i4is core business customers - including the pharmaceuticals industry. Take this example:

http://www.microsoft.com/office/showcase/productlabeling/tech.mspx

...or this one:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa159633(office.11).aspx

The fact that the Pharmaceutical industry continued to buy from i4i, rather than adopting the new native functionality of Word, is probably down to the fact that those customers had already tightly integrated their other applications with the i4i products, and were ahead of most users in adopting XML formats, rather than the fact that Microsoft didn't try to swing pharmaceuticals customers along with everyone else. Were it not for this anomaly, i4i probably wouldn't be here to bring this case, and we'd be none the wiser about it - as we no doubt are, with regards countless other cases like this one.

The court has decided that Microsoft knew of the patent, guessed that they might be in breech of it, but decided to proceed, anyway, in hopes that the i4i problem would just 'go away'. To quote Martin Sawicki, a member of Microsoft's XML for Word development team at the time, in an email that has come to light in this case:

"We saw [i4i's products] some time ago and met its creators. Word 11 will make it obsolete."

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Anonymous Coward

Unethical business practices

I think that in the light of the large number of cases MS have lost due to their dodgy business dealings, they should be branded an unethical bunch of theives and prevented from trading (or forced to pay a large %age of their profit to charity or something).

It's not going to happen though, is it?

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Gates Horns

Standard Practice

This is standard Microsoft practice - read Hard Drive. They were doing this to their "partners" back when Ballmer was still in HR making coffee.

For Microsoft, "partner" has the same meaning as "victim."

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Who shot the Sheriff and his Deputies? Was there ever one ?

Obviously i4i did not disclose to Microsoft the Honey Trap Security Doors in its Intellectual Property Portfolio which Permits AI Perfectly Legitimate Remote Execution of Systems built on their ISP. Hence all the most recent vulnerability and critical patch waremongering.

Don't tell me Microsoft outsource their Security and do not have an Accountable Office InHouse? Hell, that is Totally Irresponsible and leaves Parent Microsoft Vulnerable to and Responsible for Binary Attacks and Digital Squabbles alike, and Liable for All Incurred and Projected/Reasoned Losses and Expenses.

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Alert

Why the fuss?

It's called capitalism. Lots of people claim it's a good system.

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Pirate

Not the only ones

i4i aren't the only people whose business has been destroyed by Microsoft.

If anybody was selling an inexpensive but well-featured office suite aimed at home users, Microsoft have effectively ruined their business too, by not locking down Office against unauthorised copying. Who can compete on price with a pirated copy of MS Office? You can't even offer features that MS don't, otherwise you run into file format limitations.

Let's face it, if it was harder to pirate Office, it would never have become so popular.

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Today's partner...

...is tomorrow's lunch. Yum yum!

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Happy

i4i = weakest link

If you can build your own roof cheaper, why pay for a contractor.

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Jobs Horns

Does the custom XML....

... affect Microsoft's sham "Office Open XML" document format by any chance??

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Anonymous Coward

i4i _needs_ Microsoft

According to PDF metadata i4i's submission was put together using Microsoft Word. You'd think they'd have instructed their lawyers to use OpenOffice or something.

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Something ironic?

From the i4i Briefing PDF,

"<dc:title>

<rdf:Alt>

<rdf:li xml:lang="x-default">Microsoft Word - FINAL i4 BRIEF _v47_.docx</rdf:li>

</rdf:Alt>

</dc:title>"

You'd have thought i4i would have instructed their lawyers to use OpenOffice or something.

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revolution

Microsoft is a thief, period. They got their main break by selling a product they didn't own - which is illegal. They got away with it. They purchased or stole most of their other products. If Microsoft were a person, they'd be in jail as a repeat offender. For some reason, corporations are allowed to act like psychopaths and it's considered "OK".

I for one nominate Microsoft - and every single one of its senior management since its inception - to be the first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

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Aye

Not the only one

The one who destroys i4i is the MS pirate software, not MS himself. No one can compete with cheap MS software, even MS itself.

However, don't forget that The register is the one who painted MS to be bad guy.

His news against MS will always be bias.

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Coat

@ AC 14:21, ffinlo

I'll bet you a used iTunes song it was done using a pirate copy of Word as well.

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IT Angle

Not just in IT

Ever seen a new product in your local supermarket, only to see it replaced by an own-brand item some months later?

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Paris Hilton

So... and I must be on my own here...

But I don't get the story? "Little Co" trusts MS, agrees to a partnership. Ms screws them over. <shrug> whats the "news" in that?

Paris coz even she knows when she's getting done over.

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@ByTime

>>Does the custom XML ... affect Microsoft's sham "Office Open XML" document format by any >>chance??

It's a key element of the so-called Office OpenXML standard. More details here:

http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20090817235436439

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Grenade

at what point...

when an MS bashing session starts I always wonder at what point did people start to think that Microsoft became a not-for-profit or charity organisation??

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Gates Horns

Remember The MetaFrame(Citrix) Debacle?

It reminds me of the phrase "With firends like those, who needs enemies?"

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@raving angry loony

They got their main break by selling a product they didn't own - which is illegal. They got away with it.

They bought . SHow me proof that they stole most of their stuff ?

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