It’s not patently obvious

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If you want to know what the current patent battle is about the answer is simple: money. The bottom line is that Apple and Microsoft’s litigation against Google are nothing more that attempts to undermine the Android mobile operating system, which, for those who don’t know, the search giant gives away free, gratis and for nothing to mobile phone manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, LG and Motorola. This is unacceptable behaviour in Cupertino and Redmond, where serious cash is generated by “selling” operating systems – but I digress.

The bottom line is that I applaud Google’s acquisition of Motorola’s mobile phone business because has potential to defuse the ridiculous patent litigation from Apple and extortionate license fees demanded by Microsoft. You see, Motorola has been around a lot longer than either of those two and has a portfolio of over 17 000 patents. That gives Google the option to threaten litigation of its own and, thereby, keep Android free-of-charge and unburdened by unreasonable licensing.

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Microsoft hi-jacks eeePC; SA education

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To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement. Last night Asus launched the new 9- and 10-inch models of its eeePC in Johannesburg. That’s the good news; The bad news is the distributor, Rectron, is only bringing four of the ten models into SA – all of them with Windows.

The Asus eeePC 1000, which ships with Linux and is the model I would want

The Asus eeePC 1000, which ships with Linux and is the model I would want

I was gutted. It means that if I want one I will once again have to pay Microsoft for the privilege of using Linux. That sucks. It’s not the money – I was told that the difference in price is only about R80; it’s the principle. Why should I have to pay Redmond for NOT using its crappy software? Of course, I could always contact a friend in Dubai, have him buy me a Linux model and send it over but Asus tells me the warranty would not be honoured locally.

Nice. So the eeePC, which was launched with Linux because Windows was too fat and expensive is now only available is SA with Windows on it. In effect, Microsoft has hi-jacked the eeePC.

And then there’s the deal: Asus, Rectron and Microsoft have signed a R330 million agreement with SADTU, puportedly to avail teachers of Windows-based eeePCs – as IT Web is reporting here. Nice, so now our teachers will only know Windows; They won’t be able to choose the more affordable, more secure and more robust Linux. Sounds like another hi-jack to me.

But the numbers on the deal don’t add up. SADTU represents 240 000 teachers, which works out to R1 375 per unit. The cheapest eeePC model (7-inch screen) currently retails for around R3 000 so would imply either a massive discount, which wasn’t mentioned, or that fewer than half of SADTU’s members are expected to take advantage of the deal to buy a eeePC – the number mentioned was 80%.

SADTU is also understood to be lobbying government to pick up the tab for teachers’ eeePCs. Indeed, acting president (SADTU recently fired its president for political naivity), Thokile Nthola, did make one good point when he questioned the expectation that teachers, 90% of whom are not IT literate, could produce gradutes who are IT literate.

Chinese water torture continues for Microsoft

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Janco Associates‘ latest report on the state of the browser market makes interesting reading. The company’s press release is rather blunt: Microsoft Flops and Loses Another 7% of its Browser Market Share in 12 Months...

What Janco doesn’t show in the press release is the detail (that’s only available in the full report). One table, in particular, is illuminating. In April this year, Janco had Internet Explorer at 65.40%. Now, five months later the company says that market share has dropped to 58.50%. If that decline is sustained it’s entirely possible that Microsoft will drop below 50% in January or February next year.

Also in this report is Janco’s assessment of the Windows Vista failure. The press release headline continues: … Vista Still only used by less than 15% of all users. The full report features another interesting table, one that charts Vista market share against other versions of Windows as well as Microsoft’s total share of the desktop OS market since launch. It shows that not only is Microsoft having trouble converting existing customers but it is also losing some of those customers to the competition: in the time it has taken to get that 15% market share, Microsoft’s overall desktop OS share has dropped by more than 4% – from 96.32% to 92.20%.

And, the data don’t take into account the unwanted licences said to be boosting Vista numbers. This analysis also can’t calculte the possible lack of confidence that will be caused by Vista’s security having been shown to even more useless. If I could afford to be a Microsoft shareholder I’d be thinking about selling round about now.

Ubuntu Linux goes retail

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I picked this up off Slashdot this morning where SirLurksAlot writes that US retailer, Best Buy, is now selling Ubuntu, both through its Web site and in its brick-and-mortar locations. It appears to have quietly been made available since May 6th of this year and is apparently the latest Long Term Support version, Hardy Heron (v8.04 if you prefer).

No mention is made of support facilities over and above those available through the various Ubuntu forums. However, Best Buy does note that the product is published by ValuSoft so presumably that’s where the support can be found. Alas, no. A trip to the technical support web site and a search for the term Ubuntu returns this response: “No products were found to match Ubuntu.”

Nice. So I can buy a nicely packaged copy of Ubuntu from Best Buy for the low, low price of $19.99 or I can download exact the same product, free, grattis and for nothing from the Ubuntu website. Hmmm, tough one.

Europe ahead of the US in OSS adoption

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Interesting research on the pace of open source adoption in different territories was recently conducted by Forrester, the upshot of which seems to be that European IT professionals are ahead of their American counterparts on the adoption curve. Conducted by analysts by Jeffrey Hammond and Diego Lo Giudice, the report finds that open source adoption in most European organisations initially focused on the operating system and Web server tiers of the application platform stack, but soon widened to include development tools, infrastructure components such as application servers and databases, and higher-level components such as portal servers and content management systems.

What gets me is that the tone of the report – or at least the executive summary – seem to imply that the findings were a surprise. Hammond and Lo Giudice write that the professionals they spoke to said that their firms are interested in expanding open source adoption even further and indicated that their firms are less concerned than their North American counterparts about open source security and intellectual property issues.

I guess not living in a litigious society has its benefits.

Open Source coming to a phone near you

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Interesting news the other day. Nokia announced that it has offered to purchase the 52% of Symbian that it doesn’t already own and that the deal has been favourably received by the other shareholders. It promptly then announced plans to make Symbian open source. You can find details here and here.

But for me the most interesting aspect of this development is the particular license Nokia’s creation, the Symbian Foundation, has chosen. Instead of the ever popular GPL 2.0 or fledgling GPL 3.0, the decision has been made to release the source code under the Eclipse Public License.

I’d love to know why. What does Eclipse have the GPL doesn’t have? Or visa versa? I have queries to numerous sources outstanding on this topic and will report back as soon as somebody comes up with a plausible explanation. What this space.

Firefox 3 rocks

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I’ve been using Firefox 3 right through the beta programme – in fact ever since it was included in Ubuntu with the release of Heron. I love it so I’m not surprised that more than 8 million copies of it were downloaded in a 24-hour period last week. And now there’s an excellent review of the new browser from the Financial Times (of London). Fortunately for those of us outside the immediate catchment area, Duncan McLeod has posted it on his blog here.

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