Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Will the Word-Blocking Patent Extend Beyond Microsoft?

microsoft_logo_dec09a.jpgAs of today a federal appeals court is upholding the judgement to bar Microsoft from selling current versions of Word and Office. The question is, what does the patent actually entail? The original patent can be summarized as covering a "method and system for manipulating the architecture and the content of a document separately from each other." With this broad an abstract, it appears that the patent could affect a lot more than simple word processing. But, as with all patents, the devil is in the details.


As of Jan. 11, 2010, Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft will no longer sell its flagship word processing products in their current format. In August, a Texas jury filed in favor of i4i Inc. finding that Word infringes on the Canadian company's software patent.

Microsoft announced that it is already taking steps to remove the "little-used" infringing software feature from Microsoft Word 2007 and Microsoft Office 2007.

The removal would make these versions of Word unable to open XML files for editing. An additional workaround may already be planned. In early August ZDNet UK's Rupert Goodwins covered Microsoft's patent for an SML Schema Document - a way of creating rich XML files so that word-processing applications recognize the file as a native document. Microsoft is also taking this opportunity to direct users to the beta versions of Word and Office 2010.

It'll be interesting to see if this patent resurfaces to block additional consumer products or if the Word trial will be an isolated incident.


[link to original | source: ReadWriteWeb | published: 8 hours ago | shared via feedly]

Wikileaks Targets the Local News Frontier

eldavojohn writes "Wikileaks has been pretty successful on a global scale — from ACTA documents to East Anglian e-mails, it is the definitive place to find suppressed documents. But some are saying that now Wikileaks should begin focusing on a local level. From the article: 'The organization has applied for a $532,000 two-year grant from the Knight Foundation to expand the use of its secure, anonymous submission system by local newspapers. The foundation's News Challenge will give as much as $5 million this year to projects that use digital technology to transform community news. WikiLeaks proposes using the grant to encourage local newspapers to include a link to WikiLeaks' secure, anonymous servers so that readers can submit documents on local issues or scandals. The newspapers would have first crack at the material, and after a period of time — perhaps two weeks, [German Wikileaks spokesman Daniel] Schmitt said — the documents would be made public on the main WikiLeaks page.' Anyone reading this who works for a community news source and would like to host sensitive documents with no risk: here is your solution."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

[link to original | source: Slashdot | published: 7 hours ago | shared via feedly]

Possible Apple TV subscription service faces uphill battle

Two major TV networks are considering joining Apple's plan to offer TV subscriptions over the Internet in a venture that could put Apple in direct competition with cable and satellite providers. Disney and CBS are both taking a liking to the deal, according to sources speaking to the Wall Street Journal. However, the rumored details of the service may keep other networks away, and with cable providers looking at a potential hit in the wallet from the service (and even buying broadcast networks), it faces an uphill battle before seeing the light of day.

News about Apple's plans leaked in November, with multiple industry insiders saying that Apple may eventually launch the subscription service for a $30 monthly fee which would allow subscribers to watch whatever TV they like. The service would supposedly be an extension of the iTunes Store and not just limited to the Apple TV, although the set-top box would make perfect sense and give it a little more purpose than it currently holds. At the time of the leak, no TV networks had gotten on board yet, but Apple's VP of Internet Services, Eddy Cue, had been charged with drumming up interest.

Read the rest of this article...

[link to original | source: Ars Technica - Infinite Loop | published: 13 hours ago | shared via feedly]

2010 Predictions

Every year the ReadWriteWeb team tries its hand at predicting the future. Looking back at our 2009 predictions, we got some wrong (I predicted that Facebook would sign up to OpenSocial) but others turned out to be on the money. I correctly guessed that the usual suspects would remain unacquired in '09 - Digg, Twitter, Technorati - but that FriendFeed would get bought. OK, so I guessed that Google would be the buyer. But close enough!

Without further ado, here are our predictions for 2010. We'd love to read your predictions in the comments.


Richard MacManus, Founder & CEO, @rww

1. There will be a breakthrough of consumer applications for Internet of Things, involving the iPhone, RFID tags and a major consumer product such as books or groceries. In general, Internet of Things will ramp up in 2010, with thousands more everyday objects becoming connected to the Internet.

2. Google will acquire PostRank and promptly consign it to the same graveyard Feedburner went to.

3. Microsoft will acquire Wolfram|Alpha and Bing will continue to make small gains in the search market. Google will be distracted by increasing consumer complaints about content farms polluting Google search results.

4. A price war will erupt in the e-book market and will offer the lowest prices, leading to it gaining a dominant position in the market with its Kindle E-book Reader.

5. Google will partner with a large PC manufacturer from Asia, which will launch an inexpensive netbook powered by Chrome OS in the U.S. market. It will become a hot consumer item among school kids and university students.

Marshall Kirkpatrick, Lead Writer & VP of Content Development, @marshallk

1. Google Wave will win some respect back as people discover valuable uses for it and get used to the user experience.

2. Facebook will open aggregate-user-profile and social-graph data for outside analysis.

3. Some serious user interface innovations will blow our minds.

4. Data portability will become more real, standard, expected and viable.

5. A new social network will rise to join the big ones. It may offer the privacy that Facebook is moving away from; it may be mobile and location-centric; it may focus on personal content recommendations.

Sarah Perez, Feature Writer, @sarahintampa

1. MySpace doesn't quite make a comeback, but gets a fresh start of sorts with its music and entertainment offerings. The Gen Y/Gen Z demographic sees growth on the site but the network's overall numbers continue to decline.

2. Twitter launches ads.

3. TweetDeck finally launches a web version and becomes the number one Twitter client other than

4. Cloud computing heats up. AWS, Google, Microsoft and others begin price wars to compete for customers.

5. The iPhone still rules and grabs more mobile market share than ever before.

6. Meanwhile, Android becomes the number two mobile platform by year-end.

7. iPhone app backlash begins. There are too many worthless apps and no decent way to find the good ones. Then Apple surprises us with a brand-new feature that improves greatly upon their "genius" offering to help us find new and useful apps via iTunes.

8. iTunes announces a web service, thanks to the Lala acquisition.

9. Spotify finally gets the green light in U.S. and people go nuts for it.

10. The netbook craze dies down. People start buying new "in-between" devices that are slightly larger and more powerful than today's netbooks, but smaller, more lightweight and cheaper than regular notebooks. Features like better processors, separate GPUs and SSD HD options set these new "ultra portable" devices apart from the traditional netbook, but they're still often called "netbooks" because of their size. Market confusion ensues.

Jolie O'Dell, Writer & Community Manager, @jolieodell

1. MySpace relaunches as a content network, leveraging the bands and filmmakers they already have on board and dropping the emphasis on social networking.

2. Twitter will find a monetization model and launch things like ads and pro features.

3. Facebook will become the Borg. Its number of users will continue to climb until the network is as ubiquitous as Google and lay people confuse Facebook with "the Internet." They'll make more money and control more data than ever before.

4. iPhone's exclusivity with AT&T will come to a breaking point and we'll see network-agnostic iPhones.

5. On the bright side, 2010 will signal the death of the login. Third-party authentications will become the norm, and user data will be entrusted to a discrete handful of online properties. Users will pitch a hissyfit if ever they're asked to create a username and password and upload an avatar. After all, doesn't the Internet know they have a Facebook?

6. File-sharing will continue to be shut down around the world; by 2011, we'll all be downloading via Tor and the U.S. will have instituted a lame three-strikes-no-Internet policy.

7. Cybercrime will be more of an issue than ever. Expect to see a major governmental security breach in 2010, as the government continues to adopt 2.0 tech without strong and permanent infosec personnel and procedures in place.

Dana Oshiro, ReadWriteStart Writer, @SuzyPerplexus

1. AR: Geo-locational games and AR will come together in 2010. We're going to see strange behavior from those playing zombie shooter games on their commutes.

2. Agree with Sarah: Netbooks and gadgets like the PsiXpda are going to gain ground.

3. Mobile Music: Offline music caching will be expected of all streaming music apps.

4. The browser really will be the new OS.

5. Payment Systems: Between Square, PayPal X and advances in Internet TV, we're going to see payment options integrated in unlikely places.

Alex Williams, ReadWriteEnterprise Writer, @podcasthotel

1. Cloud computing will go through a shake out. There are just too many companies out there for the market to sustain. The big players will go on a buying spree. The consolidation will deeply affect users. Some companies will fold overnight. Users will lose access to their data, leading to a whole new wave of skepticism about cloud computing. But it won't be enough to slow down the move to cloud computing. More companies will consider the security risks as less of a factor, compared to the cost benefits and potential for innovation. Cloud computing technology will become more of a commodity. The business applications for cloud computing will take center stage.

2. The big players will come back strong. IBM, SAP and Microsoft will innovate just enough to show big gains with customers.

3. Consumer-based social networks will make big efforts to gain wider access to the enterprise, as more companies seek to open up to the social Web. The information architecture of social networks will change to accommodate the greater degrees of control that the enterprise requires. This will bring on the rise of "social middleware" - services that act as a layer between social networks and the enterprise.

4. A new breed of social networks will emerge that act as one-stop shops for applications and services. These will look more like marketplaces than social hubs for conversations around the proverbial virtual water cooler. SaaS leaders will face off for this growing market.

5. iPhone, Android or the Blackberry? I expect the Android to be the talk of the enterprise, especially if the Google Phone does make it to market. Such a phone would eliminate carrier costs and break down walled gardens that have limited application development.

Sean Ammirati, COO, @SeanAmmirati

1. Facebook will go public and the IPO will be a huge financial success.

2. Hyperlocal advertising will heat up, delivering another nail in the traditional newspaper industry's coffin. (Very similar to one of my 2008 predictions, but this time focused on the advertising aspects.) Specifically, it will be more common for a local establishment to pay marketing dollars to Yelp or FourSquare, for example, then their local newspaper.

3. Apple will release an "iTablet" and the world will be a better place for it. OK, more accurately we'll all think the world is a better place for it.

4. Agree with Jolie regarding "the death of the login." I'm hoping for open distributed alternatives along with Facebook and a handful of others.

5. Between Boxee's continued development and a new AppleTV (hopefully synched with their iTablet), it will become much more common to enjoy the Internet on a TV.

Elyssa Pallai, Marketing & Experience Manager, @boulderservices

1. Skype becomes increasingly pervasive, as the younger generations force their parents to get online, and consumers find new and interesting ways to cut costs and save money.

2. Software as service becomes ever more popular, as businesses and governments choose to focus on their core business and realize the benefits of lightweight technologies in the cloud - including rapid deployment and the low cost of switching.

3. The online user experience has a renaissance, as web browsers and hardware become more sophisticated and designers and developers take advantage of that.

4. The growth of Internet of Things continues, RFID tags in everything. The initial bugs will make funny things happen all around us.

5. iPhones and other smartphones become the purchasing tool of choice.

6. Consumers bypass carriers and create open wifi networks for all (which is already happening but not en mass).

Jared Smith, Webmaster, @jaredwsmith

1. Backlash against the App Store causes more and more developers to defect to Android and competing platforms.

2. Google Chrome's market share increases at Firefox's expense. Internet Explorer continues to lose ground as more rich, HTML5-aware Web apps spring up on the scene.

3. Opera begins to struggle, as WebKit becomes the rendering engine of choice on mobile devices.

4. Social analytics features explode onto the scene in 2010. Twitter opens Pro accounts, including analytics and an API to access them. Google strikes a deal to integrate Twitter analytics with its Google Analytics product.


[link to original | source: ReadWriteWeb | published: 5 hours ago | shared via feedly]

How Fanboys See Operating Systems

For Google, The Meaning Of Open Is When It’s Convenient For Them


Yesterday, Google published a long manifesto on the "meaning of open" in the form of an email to all employees republished as a blog post. In it, senior VP of product management Jonathan Rosenberg, makes an eloquent argument for why open systems always win and urges Google's employees to always strive to be open when designing products. An open Internet spurs innovation and brings more consumers on board, which ultimately means more searches and increased use of Web applications.

The gist of his argument is that a bigger, better Internet is good for Google. He writes that Google employees should resist the impulse to create closed products and systems, and even makes a swipe at Apple for doing so (bold added for emphasis):

. . . open systems win. This is counter-intuitive to the traditionally trained MBA who is taught to generate a sustainable competitive advantage by creating a closed system, making it popular, then milking it through the product life cycle. The conventional wisdom goes that companies should lock in customers to lock out competitors. . . . a well-managed closed system can deliver plenty of profits. They can also deliver well-designed products in the short run — the iPod and iPhone being the obvious examples — but eventually innovation in a closed system tends towards being incremental at best (is a four blade razor really that much better than a three blade one?) because the whole point is to preserve the status quo. Complacency is the hallmark of any closed system. If you don't have to work that hard to keep your customers, you won't.

It all sounds great and Google certainly is a champion of open systems with Android and Chrome and countless other projects. Google is making a very public effort to claim the mantle of openness. But the battle for this mantle has been going on for a long time. Two years ago, I wrote a post titled "Who Is The Opennest Of Them All?". What I noted then bears repeating:

But don't be fooled. Companies are very selective about the areas where they choose to be open, and they very rarely open up their core source of profits voluntarily. . . . So the next time a company touts how open it is, ask yourself how that will help it make more money. Don't confuse openness with altruism.

Google is only open when it is convenient for them. Google will never open up the source code to its search algorithms or its advertising system, or share the core data which gives it a competitive advantage in those areas because that is where it makes all of its money. Again, I pointed this out in that post two years ago:

Just because industry pressures and increased interconnectedness are forcing companies to embrace open technologies, don't confuse openness with profitability. Open standards tend to be good for spurring the adoption of new technologies, but not so good for generating profits directly. That is why companies choose to be open along axes where they don't compete. Google, for instance, is a big proponent of open standards in social networking, mobile networks, Web applications, and practically everywhere —except the one place it makes money. Its advertising system is a black box. You also never hear any talk coming out of Google about opening up the search algorithms that drive all of those advertising revenues. In contrast, Google has no problem championing open standards in industries that it is hoping to disrupt (by commoditizing existing business models with open standards, and making money with advertising instead).

Rosenberg realizes there is an incongruity between what he is saying and what Google is doing. He takes a stab at rationalizing this huge exception to Google's embrace of everything open:

While we are committed to opening the code for our developer tools, not all Google products are open source. Our goal is to keep the Internet open, which promotes choice and competition and keeps users and developers from getting locked in. In many cases, most notably our search and ads products, opening up the code would not contribute to these goals and would actually hurt users.

Maybe, but it is more likely it would hurt Google. The company has good reasons for keeping those things closed tight. Opening up those black boxes would make it easier to spam search and game AdWords and give competitors valuable data to make their own search engines and advertising systems better. If it opened all of that stuff up, it would have to work harder to keep its customers.

And really nobody should begrudge them the right to keep products they've spent a lot of time, energy, and money building to themselves. But don't give us this song and dance about how everything should be open and how Google is the opennest company in the world. Google has nothing to lose if operating systems, mobile phones, browsers, books, news, and every other industry becomes open and free, as long it can make money from search and advertising. That is exactly why Google is so disruptive. It can offer products for free that other industries charge for, as long as those products result in more searches or other advertising opportunities.

There is nothing wrong with this strategy. The fact that Google is pushing openness in so many industries is generally a good thing for startups and consumers alike. But Google should just be honest and say that they think everything should be open—except for search and advertising.

(Image via j/f/photos).

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[link to original | source: TechCrunch | published: 11 hours ago | shared via feedly]

Microsoft Ordered To Pay $290M, Stop Selling Word

Cytalk and other readers tipped us to Microsoft's loss in a US appeals court, in a patent case brought by Canadian company i4i. Microsoft must now pay $290M and either stop selling Word (and probably Office) by January 11, or somehow work around the patent by that date. A Seattle PI blog reports that Redmond has a few options left: "In a statement, Microsoft said it was working hard to comply with the injunction. The company also said it is considering further legal options, including possible requests for a new hearing or a writ of certiorari from the US Supreme Court." Update: 12/22 20:47 GMT by KD : Tim Bray has up a blog post explaining why it would be no great loss if Microsoft dropped the "custom XML" feature in dispute. Update: 12/22 23:04 GMT by KD : Reader adeelarshad82 pointed out a statement released by Microsoft earlier today, which says in part: "We expect to have copies of Microsoft Word 2007 and Office 2007, with this feature removed, available for U.S. sale and distribution by the injunction date. In addition, the beta versions of Microsoft Word 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010, which are available now for downloading, do not contain the technology covered by the injunction."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

[link to original | source: Slashdot | published: 8 hours ago | shared via feedly]

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Australia Getting Closer To Decent Internet TV Catch-Up

SevenCatchupBannerOK, we're not going to get a Hulu clone for a while, but Seven's announcement of plans to expand the range of content you can watch on its site means we're getting a lot closer to being able to watch a reasonable selection of programs online. (more…)

[link to original | source: Lifehacker Australia | published: 1 day ago | shared via feedly]

Watch out Microsoft: GNOME is poised to have a killer 2010

The GNOME Foundation features a powerhouse roster of vendor sponsors who are committing more money than ever to support desktop Linux.

[link to original | source: Linux/Unix - Digg | published: 1 day ago | shared via feedly]

Twitter's Top 10 Tech Trends of 2009

iTWire - NZ's anti-piracy plan: warnings, fines, suspension Just Got Fu.kd: Facebook And Google Get Into The Short URL Game

Moments after we heard reports of Facebook's new URL shortener, Google launched its own service, aptly called

At the moment, its only being used for Google Toolbar and Feedburner. Google just announced the new service as a sharing feature of Toolbar that will let you share a web page directly from Toolbar. The shortener is not a stand alone service and is not available for "broader consumer use." That is, at least for now. Google assures that its shortener will be stable and secure to help protect users from clicking on malicious sites. And unsurprisingly, Google promises a speedy service for links.

Google's foray into the URL shortening world isn't surprising; many platforms are developing their own shorteners in house, such as Digg and Facebook.
Facebook's new URL shortener is being used for URLs in its mobile interface. It's unclear if will be rolled out to the entire platform.

Of course both Facebook and Google's venture into this space will threaten, the most widely-used URL shortener and default service on Twitter and many Twitter clients. Up until now, has moved quickly to become the standard shortener. But the sheer volume of short links which both Facebook and Google can produce could soon overwhelm the number of links. It's the data behind the links, however, which is valuable. Whoever can gather the most unified view of all shortened links will end up winning.

You've got to think that Google will eventually roll this out more broadly to extend its reach but it's unclear at the moment if this will happen. (Although Google's Matt Cutts Tweets that the restriction to Google's own products is only "for now," with the possibility of the service "opening up" in the future).

Hat tip to True Pic for the headline.

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[link to original | source: TechCrunch | published: 1 day ago | shared via feedly]