Apple Abuses Patent System Again To Obstruct W3C Open Standard

from the getting-to-be-a-habit dept

Apple has been garnering quite a reputation for itself as a patent bully, for example using patents around the world in an attempt to stop Samsung competing in the tablet market, and bolstering patent trolls. But that's not enough for the company, it seems: now it wants to use patents to block open standards.

As befits an organization that seeks to promote the Web, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has a clear policy on the use of patents in its standards:
In order to promote the widest adoption of Web standards, W3C seeks to issue Recommendations that can be implemented on a Royalty-Free (RF) basis. Subject to the conditions of this policy, W3C will not approve a Recommendation if it is aware that Essential Claims exist which are not available on Royalty-Free terms.

< ...>

As a condition of participating in a Working Group, each participant (W3C Members, W3C Team members, invited experts, and members of the public) shall agree to make available under W3C RF licensing requirements any Essential Claims related to the work of that particular Working Group.
That's to ensure that no company has a stranglehold over a W3C standard that it can use to extract a monopoly rent from the implementations, and to create a level playing field so that all companies can compete fairly.

Clearly, Apple's not happy with that approach, since it has just disclosed some patents that may be relevant to a new open standard the W3C is working on. Opera Software's Haavard Moen explains the significance of the move:
This time they have four claims - three patents and one patent application - that threaten to block the W3C Touch Events Specification. They filed their patent claims a little over a month before the time limit expired (the claim was filed on November 11, and the time limit is December 26, 2011).

The odd thing is that Apple chose not to join the working group that handles touch events. If they had joined, they would have been forced to file the patent claims far sooner. So now we know why they didn't join. What we don't know is why Apple insists on waiting almost until the last minute before filing its patent claims.
As Moen points out, this is not the first time Apple has pulled this trick of disclosing patents at the last moment, and throwing a spanner in the W3C's machinery. This suggests that it doesn't have a problem with the specific W3C open standard, but with open standards in general.

Moreover, there are serious knock-on effects for the whole of W3C:
What makes this matter even worse is that this doesn't just affect these specific standards. The Patent Advisory Groups could in fact slow down the development of other standards by pulling people from other projects in order to investigate these claims. The investigation can take several months, and will take time, resources and money to complete.

That's time, resources and money that could have been spent on improving various other work-in-progress standards.
You would have thought that a company as successful and generally admired as Apple would go out of its way to be helpful to these industry efforts to bring open standards to the Web for the benefit of users. Sadly, it seems to take the view that the only thing that matters is preserving its own power and profit, and that one way to do that is to stop the spread of open standards that give everyone an equal chance in emerging markets. The only consolation is that Apple's latest move adds to the evidence that patents today are more about stifling the competition than promoting innovation.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2011 @ 6:01pm

    Quoted from Unknown

    "Back in the day, we had the legends! Bob Hope, Johnny Cash, and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Jobs, no Hope, no Cash."

     

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  •  
    icon
    vegetaman (profile), Dec 16th, 2011 @ 6:29pm

    Apple
    Open

    Pick one.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Jack Galt, Dec 16th, 2011 @ 7:09pm

    Good for Apple.

    "Sadly, it seems to take the view that the only thing that matters is preserving its own power and profit, and that one way to do that is to stop the spread of open standards that give everyone an equal chance in emerging markets."

    Apple is simply striving to realize their own rational self interest. If *more* companies did stuff like this, we'd have a much better internet than the statist-riddled government developed peice of junk that we have now.

     

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    •  
      icon
      TtfnJohn (profile), Dec 16th, 2011 @ 9:53pm

      Re: Good for Apple.

      There are trolls, and then there are trolls and then there are trolls who make no sense at all such as Jack Galt here. (And yes, I know where your user name comes from)

      If you would care to explain in careful detail what you mean by a "much better internet" when this one seems to work beautifully.

      And if you mention copyright, piracy and all that silliness Ayn Rand will likely puke her guts up in her grave.

       

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      •  
        icon
        hmm (profile), Dec 17th, 2011 @ 11:00am

        Re: Re: Good for Apple.

        By a "much better internet" he obviously means something like AOL's 1995 walled garden........
        or Apple's walled garden......
        Or comcast's walled garden.....
        Or AT&T's walled....oh you get the picture.....

         

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      •  
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        crade (profile), Dec 19th, 2011 @ 10:26am

        Re: Re: Good for Apple.

        heh, that plus companies striving to realize their own interest is exactly what it driving SOPA, Protect IP and all the other crap that threatens to give us a statist-riddled government developed peice of junk internet.

         

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    •  
      identicon
      Josh, Dec 17th, 2011 @ 4:21am

      Re: Good for Apple.

      I would just LOVE to hear how you're going to elaborate on the "better internet" part. please, go on...

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Louis Loria II, Dec 17th, 2011 @ 6:26am

      Re: Good for Apple.

      So, your saying you prefer corporate control over government control? Whatever thats worth. I feel the internet works just fine. What would you Apple do to improve it? Closed and proprietary standards are precisely the reason I don't own an Apple product.

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Sam Duncan, Dec 18th, 2011 @ 11:06am

      Re: Good for Apple.

      Your creator will be turning in her grave, John. Patents are nothing less than state-granted monopolies. Apple is using state power to prevent free competition. That's what the book you were in was all about, and I seem to recall you being mildly opposed to it.

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Dec 19th, 2011 @ 12:42am

        Re: Patents are nothing less than state-granted monopolies.

        Except that Rand seemed to be in favour of them.

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2011 @ 7:22pm

    Since when is playing by the rules obstruction?

    Don't blame Apple for an unwieldy standards process, they are doing everything they should to prevent the W3C from developing unenforceable standards.

     

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      TtfnJohn (profile), Dec 16th, 2011 @ 9:49pm

      Re: Since when is playing by the rules obstruction?

      unenforceable WHAT?

      Please tell me what planet you're from.

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Ed C., Dec 16th, 2011 @ 10:09pm

      Re: Since when is playing by the rules obstruction?

      ...prevent the W3C from developing unenforceable standards.

      Apple is the one making the standard unenforceable, not the W3C.

       

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        identicon
        BillH, Dec 18th, 2011 @ 8:07pm

        Re: Re: Since when is playing by the rules obstruction?

        Apple is taking pages from the Microsoft playbook. If they can't dictate the "standards" then they won't follow them... using any means possible.

         

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    •  
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      The eejit (profile), Dec 17th, 2011 @ 5:04am

      Re: Since when is playing by the rules obstruction?

      Wow, that argument is less sensible than a chocolate fire-blanket.

       

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    •  
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      hmm (profile), Dec 17th, 2011 @ 11:01am

      Re: Since when is playing by the rules obstruction?

      yes, unenforceable BY APPLE...

      i.e. if we can't think of a way to profit from this, then screw everyone...........

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2011 @ 12:57am

      Re: Since when is playing by the rules obstruction?

      Standards are not enforced, they are adopted.

       

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    •  
      identicon
      BillH, Dec 18th, 2011 @ 8:31pm

      Re: Since when is playing by the rules obstruction?

      Since when is pushing the HTML5 standard against Apple? Isn't the HTML5 standard pushing out Adobe Flash? And isn't it Apple that can't use Adobe Flash? Seems to me Apple should be cooperating in every way possible with W3C.

       

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    Violated (profile), Dec 16th, 2011 @ 7:22pm

    The raging spirit of Steve Jobs lives on. His next project will be to patent enforce the afterlife.

     

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Rightiousness, Dec 16th, 2011 @ 8:21pm

    "Apple Abuses Patent System Again To Obstruct W3C Open Standard"

    This is a boldface LIE, you F'n Apple hater. You are a blogger bully.

     

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    •  
      icon
      A Guy (profile), Dec 16th, 2011 @ 8:54pm

      Re: "Apple Abuses Patent System Again To Obstruct W3C Open Standard"

      What do you guys think? Troll or demented fanboi?

       

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        TtfnJohn (profile), Dec 16th, 2011 @ 9:55pm

        Re: Re: "Apple Abuses Patent System Again To Obstruct W3C Open Standard"

        Troll, in this case it's either our favourite Anonymous Coward or someone of similar intelligence.

        Apple fanbois, whatever else their failings are generally post in mutisyllabic words with decent grammar.

         

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        •  
          identicon
          Rightousness, Dec 17th, 2011 @ 3:44pm

          Re: Re: Re: "Apple Abuses Patent System Again To Obstruct W3C Open Standard"

          @TtfnJohn (profile), Dec 16th, 2011 @ 9:55pm
          "mutisyllabic" Learn some English and how to spell, you dim wit.

           

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      •  
        identicon
        Rightiousness, Dec 17th, 2011 @ 8:02am

        Re: Re: "Apple Abuses Patent System Again To Obstruct W3C Open Standard"

        You are not a "guy". You are a miscreant dork.

         

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2011 @ 10:16am

        Re: Re: "Apple Abuses Patent System Again To Obstruct W3C Open Standard"

        Can't decide whether to click the "funny" button or not...

         

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2011 @ 12:57am

        Re: Re: "Apple Abuses Patent System Again To Obstruct W3C Open Standard"

        Demented.

         

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      •  
        icon
        weneedhelp (profile), Dec 19th, 2011 @ 7:37am

        Re: Re: "Apple Abuses Patent System Again To Obstruct W3C Open Standard"

        fanboi without a doubt. You can almost hear him cry as he defends crApple.

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Grimby, Dec 16th, 2011 @ 9:55pm

    Every time I read stuff like this I like to go watch Apple's 1984 commercial.

     

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    Cixelsid (profile), Dec 17th, 2011 @ 1:32am

    Writings on the wall for Apple. Things are going to go the way they did in the 90s. Time to sell your shares.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Antony Norton, Dec 17th, 2011 @ 2:52am

    The whole point of a patent is to protect your technological development/idea from exploitation from others or forcing them to licence it from you.
    It is commercial and legal, and a normal part of a technology company and their modus operandi. Some will choose to ignore patents, taking a commercial judgement that it will cost more to police than they may get as a return.
    Just because W3C is open source it doesn't compel Apple to volunteer it's technology to it at all, particularly if it has already withdrawn from that particular group. W3C is working group to promote web standards, this means they don't get to promote Apples technology or include it in those standards...
    I might add, anyone can get a patent for novel work but it is always the policing of the patent that makes it effective.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2011 @ 3:35pm

      Re:

      sorry, but the whole point of a patent is to get you to play the same game with the rest of us, ie. if you share your idea with us so we all can build on it later, we'll hold off for a while on using it. It's about fostering cooperation so everybody benefits.

      When you turn it into a weapon, you're subverting the whole game and nobody (not even you, really) benefits. If you're going to play that way, you should just keep it a trade secret and leave the rest of us to do our thing without you.

      Also, the W3C isn't about open source. It's about synchronizing the parts of the game so everybody can play by the same rules, like having html tags start with < and end with > so all browsers can interpret them properly and I don't have to write the same webpage source differently for each browser.

      Again, by cooperating in good faith, everybody benefits, from the companies that make browsers to the people who write websites to the people who read and post comments to websites (just to stick with the same set of W3C standards). When someone like Apple or Microsoft takes their ball and stalks home in a snit, the rest of us have to come up with another ball in order to continue playing.

      p.s. If you can read techdirt on IE or Safari, you should be thinking about societal leaches when you read that MS or Apple are threatening the W3C with patents.

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Dec 19th, 2011 @ 12:43am

        Re: sorry, but the whole point of a patent is to get you to play the same game with the rest of us...

        No itís not.

         

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2011 @ 1:02am

      Re:

      Patents are a problem today, there are so many that is getting difficult to not infringe or own anything,it creates an environment where the tragedy of the anti-commons becomes reality.

      It doesn't matter what one company suffers what it matters is what the environment they are in suffers, not one company, not two and certainly no small group, creation of wealth depends on production, production only happens if there is work done, limiting the field to only a few big players that have the power to stop everyone else shrinks the market instead of growing it.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2011 @ 3:10am

    Apple patents

    Should Apple really just "give up" it's touch patents which it has had for years just because W3C now wants to make it part of thier open web standards? Apple has been defending these patents all along and to claim anything else is just wrong. I generally agree with you on most issues but unfortunately here you are spinning the story rather than giving all the information.
    Knowledge is power.

     

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    •  
      icon
      Ralph (profile), Dec 17th, 2011 @ 5:04am

      Re: Apple patents

      Did you even try to read the article? This is *not* about patents they had for years, this is about patents they *just* filed.

       

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      •  
        identicon
        BillH, Dec 18th, 2011 @ 8:25pm

        Re: Re: Apple patents

        The four patents in question:

        Patent 7,812,828 issued 10/12/2010 (Filing date: 2/22/2007)
        Patent 13/163,624 issued on 10/13/2011 (Filing date: 6/17/2011)
        Patent 13/163,626 issued on 10/13/2011 (Filing date: 6/17/2011)
        The fourth patent has not yet been issued.

        So at least one they had for over a year. And why did two only take 4 months to issue? Why did one take 30 months to issue?

         

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2011 @ 9:34pm

          Re: Re: Re: Apple patents

          Delays between filing an application and it issuing is not at all unusual. Some are handled relatively quickly, whereas others are not. It depends upon the number of applications that an examiner is handling.

          I do not know if this is the case here, but whenenver a later filed application is closely related to a prior filed application, the majority of the relevant prior art has already been identified, so the process of identifying additional art related to the new application is significantly accelerated. This is in part one of the reasons why the time between filing and issuance of a later filed application can be shorter.

           

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      icon
      The eejit (profile), Dec 17th, 2011 @ 5:06am

      Re: Apple patents

      It shouldn't even have them in the first place.

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2011 @ 1:04am

      Re: Apple patents

      No they should be doing what they are doing and others should be doing what they are doing and that is telling Apple to go pound sand, there are 2 opposed forces here and the market is always bigger than any one company.

      That is why patents are bad they start to affect negatively the bigger market making it impossible for smaller players to get into the game legally. Of course there is a breaking point where people will start doing it illegally, then it is game over.

       

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  •  
    icon
    vancedecker (profile), Dec 17th, 2011 @ 5:13am

    Ayn Rand once said "Check Your Premises"

    Will this stop Libertarian Christian nut bags from quoting an avowed atheist as Free Market scripture?*

    In the same sense, all the Limbaugh-Beck drone units are now telling us that the bank bailouts were not capitalism. So in effect, according to Rand, who died for our capitalist sins, we are absolved from the sin of TARP, which was caused by a sodomite Senator anyway. I mean nobody is perfect right?

    So long and thanks for the worthless apology...without any punishment to deter them, the doctrine of Industry Self Regulation will mean many more TARPs and too-big-to-fails to come.

    (*Greenspan was at one point an Ayn Rand disciple...for all you home skoolers out there)

     

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  •  
    icon
    hmm (profile), Dec 17th, 2011 @ 11:02am

    Well

    in 1997 Apple said "think different".

    I did, and I went with Android :)

     

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  •  
    icon
    hmm (profile), Dec 17th, 2011 @ 11:03am

    except

    It now seems a lot of these companies now are "too fail to be bigger"......

     

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  •  
    identicon
    ks, Dec 17th, 2011 @ 10:02pm

    Steve Jobs inverse of dutch boy

    Steve Jobs is the inverse of the dutch boy who stuck his finger in the dyke. He loved the music industry copyright dyke, and dug a little hole in the dyke using iPod, to let profit flows through his hands.

     

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    identicon
    pjcamp, Dec 18th, 2011 @ 10:11am

    No, you would have thought

    a company as successful and generally admired as Apple that regularly reveals its dictatorial and monopolistic tendencies would deserve neither its success nor its admiration.

    What you would think is that people would notice this at some point and stop thinking of Apple as a shining, benevolent wizard.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Moop, Dec 18th, 2011 @ 1:58pm

    Rotten Apple

    Too bad Apple didn't die with Steve Jobs....

     

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    •  
      identicon
      John Nemesh, Dec 19th, 2011 @ 9:23am

      Re: Rotten Apple

      Oh, it will! It may take a few years (4 tops!) but it will die horribly once people realize that Apple has been selling INFERIOR products for YEARS...they just had Billy Mayes in a turtleneck telling them otherwise.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Sustainable Living, Dec 18th, 2011 @ 5:49pm

    Profit Protection Yes - Poison The Web, No!

    I am all for protecting profits and making money on your investments, even going after people that steal intellectual property. In this case it is simply to far reaching.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    TiagoTiago (profile), Dec 19th, 2011 @ 4:10am

    "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain"

    If their products were good enough they could release all patents and source code into public domain and people would still send money their way. Acting like this is like saying "We know our shit sucks, but we're gonna make sure no one can offer somthing better so you're stuck with us, now give us your wallets and bend over bitches!!!"

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2011 @ 5:37am

    Everyone is forgetting history

    This whole scenario is playing out like a bad re-run. Has everyone forgotten that back in the 90's, Netscape was the one pulling this shit? Quote from Jim Barksdale circa 1998: "Standards are made by corporations, not committees." (to roughly paraphrase). And we all know where Netscape ended up, after creating one godawful mess in the whole HTML standards world blink-blink-blink. This is why Apple must be opposed: even if they inevitably commit hari-kari, they will completely mess up the HTML standards world just like Netscape did.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 19th, 2011 @ 8:21am

    Business protection

    Apple is doing this to protect a revenue stream. The more capable HTML 5 is, the fewer developers will need to put apps on the app store. That means fewer apps for Apple to get their 30% cut from. Makes perfect sense to me. Doesn't mean I like it, but it is certainly 100% logically consistent with a publicly traded company.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    John Nemesh, Dec 19th, 2011 @ 9:20am

    Say WHAT????

    "You would have thought that a company as successful and generally admired as Apple would go out of its way to be helpful to these industry efforts to bring open standards to the Web for the benefit of users."

    In what world do you live in? Apple is only "well regarded" by SHEEP who don't know any better! In REALITY, Apple has ALWAYS been anti-consumer, anti-open source, anti-standards (unless they OWN the standard! Look at Flash, WebM and DLNA among others), and will do and say ANYTHING to put more money in the company coffers!

    Now that "His Holyness" (Jobs) is dead and buried, the shine is coming off Apple in a hurry, and the mass market is FINALLY waking up to the fact that Apple does NOT have their best interests in mind when crafting company and legal policy!

     

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  •  
    identicon
    aikiwolfie, Dec 19th, 2011 @ 10:15am

    Ah yes, the "Dear Leader" is gone, the brainwashed automatons "mourned" his passing, but still the mighty cult rumbles on.

    In the end this can really only end in isolation. So why do it? Is absolute control and power really worth that gamble?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
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    crade (profile), Dec 19th, 2011 @ 10:24am

    Open standards are bad for Apple's whole plan and philosophy. They are a better way of handling what Apple tries to do with it's closed "apple only" "standards".

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2013 @ 10:14pm

    every product starts with "i", no wonder apple never opens up..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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