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back to article 'We invented Windows 8 Tiles in the 1990s', says firm suing Microsoft

Microsoft had barely got Windows 8 out the door before it was slapped with a patent lawsuit related to the new OS. Software and OS design tech firm SurfCast has filed a suit in Maine over Live Tiles, which it says it invented. The company has just four patents, but one of them, filed in 2000 and granted in 2004, deals with a " …

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Anonymous Coward

Seems a pretty weak patent. Not obvious, but not massively unique by a long way. Any button which displays a value and can be clicked surely is prior art.

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It is the live updating content plus being selectable that they seem to be claiming for.

Even then this is pretty weak - you could it with iframes from whenever ago

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Joke

> Seems a pretty weak patent. Not obvious, but not massively unique by a long way

So the case is a slam dunk, then.

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Anonymous Coward

who has the (US) patent for a button? infringed by everyone, presumably. Dumbf*cks

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Anonymous Coward

"It is the live updating content plus being selectable that they seem to be claiming for.

Even then this is pretty weak - you could it with iframes from whenever ago"

It sounds more to me like those "trial" WinZip count-down buttons with the disabled continue button and a timer. That's live updating content (the timer value) on a button (tile with a border.) Those were around back in Win 3.1 times.

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Anonymous Coward

Doesn't stop the fruit flavoured company though...

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Anonymous Coward

It is where the US patent system has completely screwed the pooch. Originally the idea was that somebody had an idea for something - such as a flying car - and someone thought of a way to do it. It was the way to do it, the invention, that was patentable.

Now the US seems willing to patent the idea regardless of the method, so if you think of a flying car but have no idea how to do it, and I invent the helicopter, you can stop me making it because you had the idea first.

As the rest of the world works around this epic IP fail, the US is slowly going to sink into irrelevance, because the idea for a product should not be patentable. If this silly company regurgitates the idea of mini-windows running applications that you can bring to the front by clicking on them, and Microsoft then finds a way to make it work taking into account multitasking, shared resources and all the rest of it, then they are the inventors.

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Meh

Tiled? Updating? Selectable?

I'm so tiled, I mean tired.

Oberon Operating System circa 1985, maybe. MAYBE?

Also the ACME text editor...

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It is the live updating content plus being selectable that they seem to be claiming for.

I remember icons on a X desktop doing that (content updates while still an icon) in the early 90's (and that is when I remember it - I suspect they'd been around for a while before I saw them).

The only novelty here is writing a patent to cover something obvious that already existed. Oh, wait - that's not novel either....

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Trollface

Re: Oh, wait - that's not novel either....

Maybe you should patent the idea of patenting previously-existing ideas, then sue the patent trolls.

Sort of a meta-patent-troll

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Re: Tiled? Updating? Selectable?

Going back in time there's Windows Active desktop, and Windows 1.0 itself which wasn't much more than gigantic icons/tiles. And also DesqView task-switching environment.

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@ribosome

+1 nicely put

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I remember icons on a X desktop doing that (content updates while still an icon) in the early 90's (and that is when I remember it - I suspect they'd been around for a while before I saw them).

The same thing occurred to me, and some X apps that did this were available back in the late '80s. I think there was an X11 CPU load applet that was part of the Athena distribution, or maybe the Andrew stuff, that did this - when iconified ("minimized", for the unwashed), it displayed a graph of recent CPU load that was updated every few seconds.

But then it's very hard to see how "selectable icons with updating content" are significantly different from "selectable windows with updating content". I haven't read the patent, but I may, just to see if there are any even vaguely original claims there.

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Old hat

There has got to be precedent for that before 2000.

If the patent holds, then lots of things are in trouble. I'm running an ancient Ubuntu 10.04, and on the bar I've got on the right side are live-updating icons for system load, network activity, disk activity, weather/temperature, CPU clock speed, ... Having that stuff there is why I run Gnome2 instead of something even simpler like TWM. Even under that, or way back under SunOs, the system load things were small tile-looking entities that continuously updated.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Old hat

Wasn't this also done with their previous attempt - Active desktop (not to mention any number of widgets)

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Re: Old hat

Indeed, my thoughts too - Active Desktop (in Windows 98 IIRC) offered rectangular boxes of IE-rendered content obtained by subscribing to content 'channels' and updated live from the Internet.

It was atrocious, and the first thing I disabled on installing any W98 machine, but it clearly predates the patent, although as I really can't stand to read the patent it probably specified some miniscule difference, such as a shade of blue, or the fact it updates while the user is sitting down.

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Pint

Re: Old hat

Well, here's a solution:

If the patent office grants a patent that the courts have to strike down, then the patent office pays all court costs.

Ta da!

Is it Friday yet? Feels like a Friday....

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Re: Old hat

"I'm running an ancient Ubuntu 10.04".

That would be a current, log-term supported version (until April 2013) then?

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Trollface

Re: Old hat

>If the patent office grants a patent that the courts have to strike down, then the patent office pays all court costs.

So let me get this straight you want politicians who become politicians because the love spending other people's money (gives em a stiffy) to not only risk a cash cow revenue source but also potentially cut down on the billable hours of their lawyer buddies (most who make laws also practice law, the ultimate vested interest). Hahaha good one.

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Re: Old hat

xload FTW.

I remember using that at least as early as 1992 (perhaps even 1990) on SunOS.

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Anonymous Coward

MS want to play that game Linux & Android

With the sole intention of using flimsy patents as a barrier to entry so they get everything they deserve.

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Really torn

Between wanting to dislike the patent troll, and wanting Ballmer to have more egg on his face.

But they hardly "defended" their patent while WP7 was all the rage, so I expect the claim to fail.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Really torn

"WP7 was all the rage"

I must have been having a shit during those 2 minutes and missed it

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Really torn

Patent trolls usually hold more than a meagre 4 patents.

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Coat

Re: during those 2 minutes

Yep.

it's like coppery but more silver-ry

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Vic
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Re: Really torn

> But they hardly "defended" their patent while WP7 was all the rage, so I expect the claim to fail.

They didn't need to. You're thinking of trademark legislation.

Vic.

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@Vic Re: Really torn

Oh aye. I used quote marks for that, among other, reason. But the courts are more likely to take them seriously, or at least make a significant award, if the patent represents a real product, and they were active in protecting it. At least, that's what I would hope or expect from an honest judge.

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Re: Really torn

But it was WP7 with this before. Totally credible that they just didn't know enough about WP7 to investigate. Kind of a fail, that one. I don't have much love for most software patents, even having been paid to write a whole mess of them (and mine start out honest and reasonable, though lawyers can fix that for me) and read many more on various technologies being developed. They are still technically based on implementation not idea. But that's been lax in SW patents, which no longer require source code. Worse still in business method and design patents, which don't really answer the important question: why is this even an invention.

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For once I'll be on Microsoft's side in this fight.

First example off the top of my head is the system tray next to the clock on the task bar. Introduced in Windows 95. Take task manager for instance - when minimized it shows a mini graph in real time of cpu usage, but when clicked on it magically opens the application.

(http://downloadsquad.switched.com/2007/07/29/simple-windows-task-manager-tips/ shows this even happened all the way back before this amazing patent was discovered.)

I'm pretty sure Active Desktop could do all sort of wacky things like this as well - it was microsofts first attempt at tiles and widgets etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Dealing with a couple of points

Active desktop was like asking hackers in through the front door and secondly MS stole it's GUI from Xerox.

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Anonymous Coward

"but when clicked on it magically opens the application"

It's not magic -esp when Microsoft is involved !

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Jad
Stop

RE: Microsoft's side

A button that is updated with data pertaining to the contents of the application ...

On windows, wouldn't the "Clock" do that?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dealing with a couple of points

According to Xerox it was Apple that did that.

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On windows, wouldn't the "Clock" do that?

I was thinking much the same ... I remember seeing demos of Windows 1.0 with multiple tiled windows (Windows 1 didn't support overlapping windows) showing content that updated in real time -- the clock was always one of the windows (and the others were usually filled with bouncing balls and the like, because there was no internet them, and not much that could be used as a live data feed).

It's not surprising that nobody much saw the point at the time.

This is just the same rubbish that Microsoft have tried to fob off on us with Active Desktop and Vista "Widgets" ... and there's nothing to it that you can't achieve by opening some ordinary applications and arranging their windows where you want on the screen (apart from the fact that these windows annoyingly stay put when you "Show Desktop").

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Facepalm

Re: On windows, wouldn't the "Clock" do that?

(Replying to myself, sorry ...)

... and Vista "Widgets" ...

Damn! They're called "Gadgets" not "Widgets" ... A GUI element so useful and memorable that I neither use them nor remember what they're called.

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Re: On windows, wouldn't the "Clock" do that?

doesn't matter. They wer ekilled in a security fix.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dealing with a couple of points

And Apple didn't?

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Anonymous Coward

I'm pretty sure the American Patent system is one of the signs of the apocalypse, and Europe's desire (and a few British MPs) to follow them is likely another.

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Yes, here we go again, flimsy patents, no working model, no search for previous art and no sense at all, anything goes, as long as you pay. But lets not forget that Microsoft does the same with thousands of similar silly patents, and they are very proud about it. And they are much more dangerous and will support the rotten system because they will win more than they loose.

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Stop

AOHELL

http://obamapacman.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/AOL-1996-vs.-Microsoft-Windows-8.jpg

Nuff said...

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Re: AOHELL

Wow! That image that you linked to is great! The resemblance between the old AOL start page and the Windows 8 Start Screen is rather striking! Even sadder still is that I actually remember having to use a version of AOL like that way back in the 90's, as it was the only local ISP that still supported the old hand-me-down Windows For Workgroups 3.11 machine that I used as a high school student during that time. Every other ISP demanded Windows 95 as a minimum, and that would have been a bit much for the ol' 16MHz 386SX with 16MB of RAM to handle!

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Windows

@Hoagiebot

Windows 95 ... would have been a bit much for the ol' 16MHz 386SX with 16MB of RAM to handle!

Yes it would, especially as (if I remember correctly) Win95 required at least a 386 DX to run at all!

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Re: @Hoagiebot

Yes, The SX was a typical Intel marketing ploy. It was more like a 286 with some tweaks than a genuine 386. For one thing it had a 16 bit external data bus. Windows 95 needed the 32 bit bus of the DX.

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Re: AOHELL

"Every other ISP demanded Windows 95 as a minimum"

Bullshit. I still connect to systems that require nothing more than a dumb terminal and a modem. That's today, in 2012. I still use UUCP internally, too ... nothing else beats it for functionality.

Glitter is not the be-all & end-all, people ... information, on the other hand, is.

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Re: @Hoagiebot

"Win95 required at least a 386 DX to run at all!"

Nope. My aging 386sx runs Win95 painfully slow. But it runs.

The same 386sx runs Slackware 14.0 quite nicely, after a couple tweaks :-)

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@Cyberspace (was: Re: @Hoagiebot)

"The SX was a typical Intel marketing ploy."

True. But what else is new when it comes to corporate product names?

"It was more like a 286 with some tweaks than a genuine 386."

Incorrect. It had the complete 386 instruction set.

"For one thing it had a 16 bit external data bus."

True. At the time, that was hardly an issue for most folks, though.

"Windows 95 needed the 32 bit bus of the DX."

Incorrect. I have a 386 that runs Win95. Painfully slowly, but it runs.

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To most above

The way I see it is this is different from the "widgets" you are talking about as they specify windows tiles ie what were icons to launch programs on older versions of windows.

The only thing I can see where they would not win is if their patent covers icons in the old sense to launch the app/program or if this is only some sort of widget and limited in what it covers.

I doubt it can be widgets though or they would have gone after Android etc ages ago.

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Anonymous Coward

Pffff

They're all a bunch of WIMPs

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Anonymous Coward

Err...

Having had a look at the patent, what they had is a system which shows part of a window in a tile like grid. Not the same as a tile, which is a device to show information specifically designed to fit into that tile, such as unread emails, clips of a picture from a library, the weather outside etc. etc.

I strongly suspect that Lotus Notes would have a claim of prior art as its client has had a system of tiles on a grid which dynamically update (albeit only with unread numbers.)

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Re: Err... WOW??? Lotus Notes

Was on my mind, too. The old drawers and file cabinet version. IIRC, any old good dev could place text and dynamic info on the drawer face.

Also springing to mind is Killer Windows Utilities, iirc, published by Que. I bought it for Win 3.1 to get more desktops, more gadgets, and much more functionality from windows than ms provided until win 95 came along with a gui bolted to dos.

I would have felt sympathy for the patent-claiming company, but they seem to have gambled on goosing ms. Once again, never thought i would come down on ms' side., as ironic and quasi embarrassing as it may be.

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