As noted in Wired, Microsoft has been granted a patent on double clicking. Microsoft filed the patent in July 2002, but included content from an earlier filing in 1999, which was abandoned. The patent applies only to application buttons on a “limited resource computer device”, which is not defined. It does not seem reasonable that this invention could possibly be unique, novel, and not obvious to experts in the same field, as required to be granted a patent, especially as late as 1999 or 2002. Certainly at first glance, this patent should not have been granted. Of course I am not a lawyer, though perhaps I should quickly become one.
According to Information Week, anti-virus software vendor Sophos says there were 959 new viruses released on the Internet in May, a 2-1/2-year high. That’s almost 31 viruses every day of the month. I’m not sure what is more astounding – that number, the fact that all of them can be researched and protected against, or that somebody can come up with that many unique names.
These numbers are always reported by anti-virus software companies who have a vested interest in convincing users that the virus threat is substantial and growing. Just how much can this information be believed? Having spent years in the software development business, it is amazing that these companies can analyze viruses and write code to patch them that quickly. It also saddens me that there is that much intelligence and creativity being wasted in the development of viruses, not to mention the time and economic cost to users and companies who are so negatively affected by them.
Larry Lessig points to this excellent article that rationally explains why music downloading isn’t theft. To paraphrase the article, the restrictions that are being imposed will paralyze creativity. As I listen to my son learning Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water on his guitar, I wonder if the record companies will eventually come after him for stealing their music. The article suggests an interesting comparison. Should Trinity College, Cambridge, be able to approve every application of calculus, since it was the invention of Isaac Newton, its late employee? This is the same logic being used by record companies today.
When I tried the new Yahoo! anti-spy toolbar, I never even noticed that it did not scan for adware by default. It was necessary to check a box each time you run the scan. An article in eWeek suggests that this may be due to the fact that Yahoo! has a vested interest in adware. For example, Claria (formerly Gator), one of the most prolific purveyors of adware, is a Yahoo! business partner. According to the article, Yahoo’s Overture division, a leading provider of paid search listings, contributed 31 percent of Claria’s 2003 revenues through a partnership in which it supplies paid listings to Claria’s SearchScout service, according to Claria’s April S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. A Yahoo! spokesperson said that Overture screens its distribution partners to make sure they gain user permission before downloading software.
Jonathan Schwartz, President and Chief Operating Officer of Sun Microsystems, thinks that hardware will be free in the next few years. Instead, we will rent our software, signing up for multi-year maintenance contracts. There have recently been similar comments made about automobiles. The car would be free but we would pay for the service agreement.
This would certainly free us from the need to keep purchasing upgrades for buggy Windows operating systems. However, would the hardware be upgraded as often? Moore’s Law suggests that the processing power doubles and the price is cut in half every 18 months. Feature bloated software takes advantage of this fact, and pushes us to upgrade to the next big thing. Would hardware manufacturers, who have a real cost to manufacture, want to provide us new stuff that often?
What about situations where the hardware manufacturer does not make the software? Actually that is true for pretty much all Windows and Linux systems. Would the hardware manufacturer bundle some software when they ship the hardware? Where would the upgrades come from?
This idea could work well in an environment where one company can control an integrated supply, delivery, and aftermarket chain. Automobile companies manufacture the product and exert a great deal of control over the delivery and maintenance channel, so this could work for them. However, doing it successfully in the computer hardware/software arena would require much closer cooperation than currently exists. The constantly changing nature of the business may make it impossible to achieve the kind of platform stability that would be needed. For example, who could have predicted a mere five years ago that an upstart operating system like Linux would achieve the kind of penetration that puts it in IBM as during primetime on television?