The patents attack Android

Android is on fire. More than 550,000 Android devices are activated every day, through a network of 39 manufacturers and 231 carriers. Android and other platforms are competing hard against each other, and that’s yielding cool new devices and amazing mobile apps for consumers.

But Android’s success has yielded something else: a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents.

They’re doing this by banding together to acquire Novell’s old patents (the “CPTN” group including Microsoft and Apple) and Nortel’s old patents (the “Rockstar” group including Microsoft and Apple), to make sure Google didn’t get them; seeking $15 licensing fees for every Android device; attempting to make it more expensive for phone manufacturers to license Android (which we provide free of charge) than Windows Phone 7; and even suing Barnes & Noble, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung. Patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it.

A smartphone might involve as many as 250,000 (largely questionable) patent claims, and our competitors want to impose a “tax” for these dubious patents that makes Android devices more expensive for consumers. They want to make it harder for manufacturers to sell Android devices. Instead of competing by building new features or devices, they are fighting through litigation.

This anti-competitive strategy is also escalating the cost of patents way beyond what they’re really worth. The winning $4.5 billion for Nortel’s patent portfolio was nearly five times larger than the pre-auction estimate of $1 billion. Fortunately, the law frowns on the accumulation of dubious patents for anti-competitive means — which means these deals are likely to draw regulatory scrutiny, and this patent bubble will pop.

We’re not naive; technology is a tough and ever-changing industry and we work very hard to stay focused on our own business and make better products. But in this instance we thought it was important to speak out and make it clear that we’re determined to preserve Android as a competitive choice for consumers, by stopping those who are trying to strangle it.

We’re looking intensely at a number of ways to do that. We’re encouraged that the Department of Justice forced the group I mentioned earlier to license the former Novell patents on fair terms, and that it’s looking into whether Microsoft and Apple acquired the Nortel patents for anti-competitive means. We’re also looking at other ways to reduce the anti-competitive threats against Android by strengthening our own patent portfolio. Unless we act, consumers could face rising costs for Android devices — and fewer choices for their next phone.

UPDATE August 4, 2011 – 12:25pm PT

It’s not surprising that Microsoft would want to divert attention by pushing a false “gotcha!” while failing to address the substance of the issues we raised. If you think about it, it’s obvious why we turned down Microsoft’s offer. Microsoft’s objective has been to keep from Google and Android device-makers any patents that might be used to defend against their attacks. A joint acquisition of the Novell patents that gave all parties a license would have eliminated any protection these patents could offer to Android against attacks from Microsoft and its bidding partners. Making sure that we would be unable to assert these patents to defend Android — and having us pay for the privilege — must have seemed like an ingenious strategy to them. We didn’t fall for it.

Ultimately, the U.S. Department of Justice intervened, forcing Microsoft to sell the patents it bought and demanding that the winning group (Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, EMC) give a license to the open-source community, changes the DoJ said were “necessary to protect competition and innovation in the open source software community.” This only reaffirms our point: Our competitors are waging a patent war on Android and working together to keep us from getting patents that would help balance the scales.

Mission Blue: Follow an Expedition off Easter Island, Chile

Have you ever dreamed of embarking on an exciting expedition? Well, now you can follow a ship traveling the ocean in Google Earth. National Geographic and Oceana scientists in collaboration with the Chilean Navy are traveling on their next Mission Blue expedition to the remote Salas y Gomez Island. This island is 250 miles (390 km) east of Easter Island. They aim to discover what lies beneath these largely unexplored waters.

To follow along, open Google Earth and search for “Easter Island, Chile”. Look for the blue ship icon heading eastward as it travels to Salas y Gomez Island. Check back daily through March 10th to track this expedition (make sure the Places layer is turned on). The science team will share updates from the expedition as they travel east from Easter Island toward Salas y Gomez Island – including photographs, videos and links to the National Geographic News Watch blog. National Geographic and Oceana are members of Mission Blue.

We are also excited that we were able to quickly publish new imagery for the island in Google Earth and Google Maps, so that now anyone can visit Salas y Gomez virtually.

Click on the blue ship icon near Easter Island in Google Earth
to see the most recent post from the expedition.

In addition to the ship icon in Google Earth, you can also download the expedition KML or visit the Google Earth Gallery to download the file.

To bring this expedition to life for thousands of teachers and students around the globe, the National Geographic Ocean Education Program is working with Oracle® Education Foundation in the Oracle ThinkQuest online community. Educators can find lesson plans, submit questions to the research team while at sea, discuss with classrooms around the world and more. Visit the ThinkQuest website to apply to join the global community of teachers and students.

We hope you enjoy this virtual adventure at sea with the research team at Mission Blue.

Google обвинява външни разработчици за нарушенията в Android

След като от компанията Oracle подадоха съдебен иск срещу Google, в който се описват нарушения на патенти в мобилната операционна система Android, от Google отхвърлиха обвиненията. Гигантът твърди, че от Oracle са манипулирали оспорвания код на операционната система.

В отговора на обвинението се казва, че Google не нарушава авторски права на Oracle. Ако бъде установено подобно нещо, никой не би трябвало да бъде отговорен за него. Въпреки че Android е разработена предимно от Google, системата е публикувана от Open Handset Alliance. Обединението представлява съюз между 78 компании от различни области.

От интернет компанията заявяват, че спорните образци на Java кода не са неразделна част от операционната система и са били разработени от трети страни в процеса на създаването на системата без участието на компанията. Понастоящем в разработката на Google Android взема участие не само Google, но и други участници на консорциума Open Handset Alliance.

В документите, подадени в съда, се казва, че Android е отворена операционна система и използването и е напълно свободно, както и внасянето на изменения в нея. Нещо повече: в документите на Google се заявява, че Oracle е дошла в съда с “недобри намерения”, тъй като кодът, който защитават от компанията, фактически е бил получен в резултат от закупуването на Sun Microsystems, където е бил създаден, като е бил деклариран като отворен и от Sun не са преследвали за използването му.

Освен това, Oracle бе обвинена, че е манипулирала примерите, представени като доказателство за нарушаване на авторските права. Били са променени основни елементи на публикуваните клас файлове, като например описанията на авторски права.

Използваната в Android Dalvik VM не е Java Virtual Machine, както се твърди от Oracle. Всъщност, приложенията за Android биха могли да бъдат написани на Java, но генерираният от тях байткод значително се различава от байткода за Java VM. По тази причина може да се заключи, че Dalvik VM и Java VM са базирани на различна архитектура.

От Google не са съгласни и с лицензните условия на Oracle. За да може да бъде лицензирано нещо определено, първо трябва да бъде лицензирана технология за него, дори да няма нужда от нея.

Независими юристи са на мнение, че в момента процесът се развива в няколко противоречиви направления: от една страна, от Google декларират съпричастността си към Android, а от друга, в случй на съдебно преследване компанията заема позиция, съгласно която Android е отворен продукт и отговорността за него е обща. От друга страна, Oracle също се опитва да претендира за правата върху код, който в миналото е бил отворен.

Заседанието на съдебните заседатели по този случай ще започне на 18 ноември.