back to article Nokia and Intel defensive on MeeGo Linux patents

Tech companies are playing hardball on smart phones, but Linux could gain the upper hand with Intel and Nokia going on the defensive with MeeGo. To get you on Facebook while on the bus, play a tune, and - oh, yeah - make a call, Microsoft and Apple are finding new ways to rein in the competition on phones: they're using patent …

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  1. Wile E. Veteran
    WTF?

    What about *BSD or Inferno

    *BSD is a direct descendant of the original Unix V7 with all the ATT code rewritten out. Is it as vulnerable to the patent trolls as Linux or would it be a better direction to pursue than Linux?

    There used to be some pretty interesting UI's on V7 and Sys V R2/3 that were not based on X. Maybe time to reinvent a couple of wheels.

    Likewise, Inferno (based on Plan9) seems to be awfully free of any patents except those owned by Bell Labs and they are under a pretty open license.

    1. lucmars

      Patent software is about the idea not the code

      And that is the problem, your code do 'blah' but, unfortunately, doing 'blah' is patented. You don't rewrite the code per se, you have to use a different naming and denomination in such a way that, in the end, your code don't do 'blah' but 'bloh'.

      Look at how the W3C avoid the Apple's patent about updating a running software, all the functions to update the widget have just been renamed. At this stage you are not coding, you're in the rethoric.

    2. Raumkraut

      Intellectual Property

      Unless a piece of software has remained entirely unchanged for the time it takes for a patent to expire; therefore predating every potential patent threat (though this would likely still have to be shown in court, after you're sued by a troll); it is possible that the software in question may read on (ie. infringe) any number of patents.

    3. djack
      Grenade

      That wouldn't help

      The whole thing is FUD, they would use the same scare tactics regardless of the underlying OS. Settlements are out of court, so specific claims (which would probably be blown out of the water, or easily worked around) are never made public.

      We should respond in kind... WIndows and OSX probably contain copyrighted code stolen from the Linux kernel.

    4. John Hughes

      It doesn't matter whether you think your code is patent free...

      ...what matters is whether you can fight off an attack.

      Your nice Inferno based system _might_ be found non-infringing, but by the time you get the judgement you'd probably be dead.

      That's why you'd like to have Microsoft (eurgh) or Nokia/Intel (better) behind you, promising to use their patent portfolios and cash as protection.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's all the same when patents are so badly enforced

      Software patents effectively patent an idea - something patents were specifically supposed not to do - so there's no way to defend yourself by licensing or anything like that. Plus, as the above poster said, the real problem is the cost and time needed to defend yourself in court against even the most spurious patent claim from a company with billions in the bank.

      There is, however, a simple solution: scrap patents. All of them. No, really, ALL of them. They've long since outlived their usefulness and in these enlightened days we're all supposed be be against government-back monopolies, aren't we?

  2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Boffin

    M$ is not stooopid....

    If M$ sees MeeGo as a threat but not want to go to court against Intel/Nokia and their patent portfolio then M$ will not put in some crazy royalty demand. Instead they'll make a quite reasonable offer, maybe a patent cross-licence, something easy to swallow. The lawyers will all agree it's the easy answer with the least pain for all, Intel and Nokia happilly go on to plug out phones no-one will want (c'mon, your average iPhone buyer hasn't a clue about Linux, and your avearge Nokia phone buyer doesn't even use half of Symbian's features!), and M$ then gets a big precedent to go beat up the smaller players with. MeeGo eventually withers and dies or becomes Symbian's replacement on the low-end Nokia handsets, and Google and Apple go on to dominate the market (after M$ gets nice patent payments out of the Google phone vendors for ever Android phone and out of Apple for every iPhone sold). Android users keep feeling smug (until they get swamped with ads on their phones), iPhone users stay just as blissfully unaware as ever, and M$'s shareholders laugh all the way to the bank.

  3. Goat Jam
    Linux

    Microsoft vs intel?

    I'd like to see that.

    On the subject of meego, the main problem that I have with all these different phone OS's is that by the time you get a phone with the OS on it it has become afflicted with all the usual "enhancments" and "unique experiences" that are trowelled over the top by the usual assortment of manufacturers and Telcos, leaving the poor suffering user totally dependent on these manufacturers and telcos for any subsequent OS upgrades.

    The problem is that these companies have a woeful track record in this area. It is clear that for the most part once they have sold you the phone they couldn't care less about upgrading the software for you. If you want new software you are supposed to buy a new phone.

    For all the crap behaviour that apple demonstrates on a daily basis this is one area where their products shine. I don't have to worry about whether my current telco will deign to provide me with firmware updates because they come straight from apple.

    Until one of these linux touting phone companies starts taking more care of their existing customers I will, I'm afraid, be sticking with my iphone.

    And I say this as a long time linux user who owns no mac's or windows PC's.

    1. Andraž 'ruskie' Levstik

      Owning a N900...

      I can tell you this. It is NOT linked to a telco and so on. Hell if I want I can apt-get remove every bit of the system though I only really just remove all the Ovi stuff and skype and flash.

      Nokia does provide updates direct to the device but sadly they lack the robustness of a desktop system. I'm hoping with MeeGo this will improve.

  4. Big-nosed Pengie
    Gates Horns

    Title

    If I walk into a shop and say "Nice shop you've got here. Give me money and I won't set fire to it" I'd expect a visit from the rozzers. I don't think that they'd have to prove that I actually had matches and petron on me - it's called demanding money with menaces, not demanding money with the demonstrated means to set fire to the shop.

    If Mickey$shaft or Apple walk into a shop and say "Nice product you've got here. Give me money and I won't sue you for infringing my patent" I'd expect...nothing. Nothing at all.

    These people have never proven or even hinted at what patents of theirs are actually infringed, they simply make the threat and people pay up.

    And the difference is...?

    Evil Bill, because there's no "'Ello, 'ello, 'ello - what's all this then?" icon.

    1. M man
      Thumb Down

      the difference is...

      sueing people isnt a crime.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    "Onward, Clone Soldiers"

    Begun has the software patent cold war. Threatened is the innovative developer order. Speaking in a grammatical reverse polish notation is the Yoda.

    Scared is the Yoda. Strangling innovation is the Microsoft and their Sith ally. Ignorant to their effects is the dark order.

    Anonymous because the Yoda must move like the wind...

  6. SynnerCal
    Big Brother

    Confusion reigns

    Hmm, the "Microsoft persecuting HTC to save them from Apple" is an aspect I hadn't considered before ... very interesting. Although I bet there's few out there who wouldn't just love to see the Redmond Collective go up against the Cupertino National Socialists.

    Thumbs up from me for Intel/Nokia being bullish about defending their latest Linux respin (I've got an old Nokia 770 tablet which is really quite good). But am I the only person wondering why the Googleplex couldn't also putting up a shield like this around Android? (Especially since I'm giving an HTC Desire serious consideration to replace my venerable Nokia N95)

    1. djack

      No Critical Patents

      The reason that the Intel/Nokia alliance can stand up to Microsoft where Google couldn't is the fact that Google simply don't have a suitable patent portfolio to stand behind.

      All Microsoft have is software patents (probably interface or kernel related, that may or may not cover stuff in Meego, Maemo or Android) whereas Nokia have many, many fundamental operational and hardware patents on how a mobile phone operates. Microsoft would be insane to push the big red button on this one.

  7. Peter D'Hoye
    Dead Vulture

    Nokia already has a Linux initiative going

    it is called maemo, and runs fine on my n900

    0/10 for doing proper research...

    1. djack

      Meego is the future of Maemo

      The next Nokia Linux phone/tablet OS may or may not be called Maemo 6, but it will definitely be a Meego system.

      Meego is a merger of code and knowledge from Moblin and Maemo.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nokia already has a Linux initiative going

      "it is called maemo, and runs fine on my n900"

      Maybe, but it isn't going to get any real support from Nokia any more, particularly as the technology roadmap has shifted. Perhaps that'll give the thing some vitality once it's unshackled from the "you can't have that, my manager hasn't signed off on it" mentality.

  8. Ami Ganguli

    It doesn't need to make sense

    Wile E: you're assuming that these patents make some sort of sense and actually embody some sort of innovation.

    In reality anybody can file a patent for anything software-based and have it approved. Then it's up to the patent victim to prove (and pay the needed legal fees) that the patent is obvious/has prior art/etc. That's why Microsoft keeps the details of the claimed infringement a secret. If they let the cat out of the bag then a few interested parties with deep pockets can start challenging the patents in court. As long as nobody knows what the patents are, they can be used for FUD.

    So using *BSD won't help. Just take any 40-year-old software technique, tack "on a mobile phone" on the end, and you've got a patentable innovation useful for patent trolling. "Multitasking", not patentable. "multitasking on a mobile phone", a goldmine! *BSD on a phone infringes too.

  9. Hayden Clark
    Unhappy

    This is the beginning

    .. of the end.

    Yesterday, it was the camera manufacturers.

    Today, the smartphone makers.

    Tomorrow, the home NAS and router makers?

    Soon, it will be impossible to sell a product with Linux in without paying royalties.

    Then it will be *impossible* to give the product away.

    Then it will be impossible to install the latest distro without "buying a license from Microsoft".

    It's coming - we need to stop Microsoft and Apple now, and ensure that Softrware Patents never take hold in Europe. Which they will, if we don't protest.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Move along, nothing to see here.

    Meego will bite the dust, not because it is rubbish but beacuse Nokia have two people working on it. There was a post on the //talk.maemo.org forums where their head developer introduced himself and said there were two. He might have been Jaaksi himself.

    Maemo was also supported as vocally by Nokia, and now you are lucky if you can get basic fixes to basic problems. Now it is Meego and the two developers are now Meego developers and basic fixes don't exist.

    I would expect this as nothing more than drumming up support for something, that hasn't actually been created yet.

    Then again there is talk on the forums that Maemo 6 is Meego and that the same language is actually in both, it is just a rebranding. Nokia don't even know what they are doing with their own language, how can a patent troll.

    1. Andraž 'ruskie' Levstik

      There is...

      infact a meego image for the n900 already. It does lack the UI layer iirc so it has a bit of limitations but it is not vapour-ware.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Definately more than 2

      Times that number by 100 on the Nokia side alone and you might be right. I've come accross 4 or 5 people from Nokia working on Meego and its a big enough project that they didn't all know each other. QA guys from Finland, Software engineers from Mountain View CA, those sorts of folks. I got the impression they were part of some fairly large teams themselves. I'm guessing there are a whole load more in Intel.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Nokia already suing Apple and others

    Nokia and Sony have created a shell company for patent trolling called MobileMedia. It's being run, somewhat surprisingly, by the MPEG-LA that have been in the news recently about H.264 patents. MobileMedia has only existed for about 6 months and has already sued Apple, HTC and RIM for a bunch of smartphone patents.

    http://thepriorart.typepad.com/the_prior_art/2010/04/mobilemedia-ideas-v-apple.html

  12. Chris in NZ
    Thumb Down

    sad

    > ... whether or where Microsoft, Apple, or patent trolls will strike next.

    should be:

    ... whether or where Microsoft, Apple, *and other* patent trolls will strike next.

    Sad that google can't / won't do the same for Android. With the cash they have, they should cross-licence with someone who has a heftier portfolio, like say samsung, and do the same.

    How does all this make you feel about defending your hard-earned little patent, lonely and genuine inventor? The whole system is just broken. Companies too big ... are responsible again, except this time ... too big to sue.

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    WTF?

    "You hurt me. Give me money"

    "How did I hurt you?"

    "If I have to answer that question you give me *more* money."

    This is the MS FUD blower running in overdrive.

    Icon says it all.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    children at play

    All this just reminds me of the primary school play yard

    I bet I can run faster than you! No I'm not gonna show, I'm just gonna hit you in the face...

    My patents are bigger than yours! No I'm not gonna show, I'm just gonna sue your *ss for the next 20 years and put you out of business...

    Or the cold war for that matter...

  15. Piloti
    Jobs Horns

    SLightly confused....

    The opening gambit of this piece was 'making calls infringes patents...'.

    I am confused. Given the stupidity of patent rules, if Nokia [for example] are not infringing patents in the current range of devices, for making calls, why should 'Linux' all of a sudden be the wasp in the honey jar ?

    Given MS/ Apple are such later comers to the party, why are they, all of sudden calling the shots ? It /should/ be Nokia seens as either the benevolent patent owning saviour, or patent trolling beast, given how they have been in the market.

    Why is everyone so fearful of two computer companies who, until the last few months, don't make 'phones ?

    Does it mean, technically, my E65 is some how infringing some bizarre MS/Apple patent ?

    P.

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