by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 7th 2012 3:46pm
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Apr 27th 2012 5:33pm
from the share-the-value dept
In the discussion we had about Craigslist, one of the points was that while Craigslist itself only "captures" a small part of the value it's unleashed, that's not necessarily bad. First, it's good because much of that value to go out to the users of Craigslist themselves. That's why they appreciate and use Craigslist in the first place. If Craigslist tried to capture all of that value itself, people would stop using Craigslist. Now some may argue it becomes a different situation when you have third parties monetizing some of that value, but I disagree. When you look at the most successful companies in the world, they're often platforms -- they create value and capture some of it, but also allow much of that value to be monetized by others.
Look at Microsoft, Apple, Google and Facebook. All of them created a massive amount of value -- and all have become phenomenally successful companies -- but all of them did so by also letting others monetize large portions of the value they created. It's how you build a more long-lasting ecosystem from which you can continue to profit from over time. If you seek to capture all of the value yourself, you don't last very long.
I got to thinking about this more, after hearing the CEO of The Economist (who, one would hope, would understand these economic concepts) complaining about Flipboard capturing some of the value The Economist creates, and declaring it a "competitor" to The Economist's own digital and app ambitions.
“But you’re heading down a route we’ve seen before – giving the opportunity to extract value to somebody else in an area that should be our own – so Flipboard is problematic.”Of course, that ignores the fact that Flipboard -- an aggregator app -- provides its own value as well. People don't use Flipboard just because it includes content from The Economist. They use it because of the overall experience and the fact that it aggregates content from lots of different sources in one place. As much as The Economist, or any publication, might like to "own" the reader, that's not necessarily what the reader wants. Letting others "extract" some of that "value" can actually be a really good thing. Flipboard provides a useful service for The Economist in not only experimenting with new ways to aggregate and present content -- from which The Economist can learn -- but also in potentially expanding The Economist's audience as well, feeding much greater value back into that ecosystem.
Yes, companies need to look at the overall market and see where it is they can extract value -- but you have to wonder about those who claim eminent domain over certain parts of the marketplace. Letting others extract some (and perhaps lots) of that value can have tremendous benefits for those who do so.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Mar 29th 2012 1:50pm
from the others-might-beg-to-differ dept
He said that he did think that Red Hat could get to $5 billion in due course, but that this entailed "replacing $50 billion of revenue" currently enjoyed by other computer companies. What he meant was that to attain that $5 billion of revenue Red Hat would have to displace software that currently costs $50 billion. Selling $50 billion-worth of software -- even if it only costs $5 billion -- is somewhat hard, which is why it will take a while to achieve.And that's a key point. The markets are very different. But I think there was an even more important point later on in that discussion, which is that it's wrong to think of just "pure play" open source companies as the open source market. It's really the equivalent of defining "the music industry" as solely "the number of CDs sold." That doesn't paint the entire picture at all. Because, as we've seen, as music has become more available (both in authorized and unauthorized means), it's built up the much wider "music industry" in massive ways -- jump-starting huge shifts in the industry.
Similarly, the importance and impact of the "open source market" is not in the companies offering up open source software, but in the companies using open source software to offer amazing things to the world. In other words, I'd argue that companies like IBM, Google and Facebook are clearly "billion dollar open source companies" (actually, much, much more than just a billion) -- because they all use open source software as the key component and key resource in building their business. Just as other parts of the music business used free music to boost their revenue, companies that used open source software built massive new markets and grew their own revenue streams.
Given that, I know there's a lot of folks talking about Red Hat finally actually hitting that $1 billion revenue milestone -- and it is a milestone worth noting. However, I think it's wrong to suggest that Red Hat is therefore the first "billion dollar" open source company. In fact, just as IBM, Facebook and Google really make their money by leveraging open source software to do (and sell) something else, much of Red Hat's revenue really comes in an ancillary manner to the software as well: from selling the service that goes with it. It's great that Red Hat is doing well, and certainly it presents yet another useful data point to argue against those who argue there's no money to be made if your key "product" is free, but I think it's unfair and misleading to claim that it's the first billion dollar open source company.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Mar 20th 2012 2:27pm
from the economic-reality dept
That seems like a rather simplistic analysis. Patel is right that many companies are "designing around" these overly broad and somewhat silly patents, and so it doesn't mean that Android phones aren't available. But that doesn't mean that there's no real impact on consumers. While it can't be quantified directly, there are numerous ways in which these patents are likely impacting the results. First, there's a matter of cost. The legal fights over patents are quite expensive, and that's almost certainly keeping prices on these devices somewhat higher than they might otherwise be. Second, the money and time it takes to do that "designing around" potentially slows the development of these phones. Third, those same resources could have been put elsewhere, working on additional innovations that would make the phones better and more valuable. Instead, they're forced to reinvent the wheel without doing the same scrollback or slide to unlock. Finally, while some will claim that forcing these companies to invent around the patents can lead to new innovations, there's little evidence to support this claim. Certainly it might happen accidentally, but letting developers come up with new innovations based on their own experiments and what the market tells them is always going to be more efficient than stumbling on some innovation because you're trying to avoid the artificial monopoly of a patent.
Of course, this is one of the difficult things in discussing the problems of the patent system. People insist they can't be that bad because these devices are still on the market. It's difficult to see or even explain the innovations that we don't have because of this, or even to show how the pace of innovation is almost certainly slower because of this, but that's exactly what plenty of research has shown for years. No one says that innovation stops completely because of patents, but we have significant concerns about how they impact the overall pace of innovation, as well as the specific direction of innovation. While it might not seem to have a "day-to-day impact on the consumer," chances are it's having quite a large one. We just can't see how big.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 27th 2012 3:37am
Patent Aggressor Microsoft Files EU Complaint Against Google/Motorola For Charging Too Much To License Patents
from the live-by-the-sword dept
Of course it was partly Microsoft's aggressive patent position against Android that put Google in the position of feeling compelled to buy Motorola Mobility to get its patent portfolio, mainly for the sake of protecting itself and having a bunch of patents that it could use as a shield against a lawsuit from the likes of Microsoft. Of course, Microsoft was already suing Motorola over the company's use of Android.
A few weeks ago, we discussed the tough spot that Google was in over Motorola's patents. The company has indicated that would keep in place Motorola's current patent licensing strategy. While many of us would prefer that Google make a big statement by freeing or opening up many of these patents, the company is actually in something of a ridiculous position: if it does that... its competitors (mainly Microsoft) will claim anti-trust violations by saying that the company is using its market position to undercut the prices that other charge.
It's other choice? Keep the current rates. And that's what it's indicated it would do... so the second that the EU and the US approved the merger, Microsoft files this antitrust complaint, arguing that the rates Motorola charges for its patents is too high. It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't position for Google. Keep the rates as they are, and they're violating antitrust rules by charging too much. Cut the prices or free up some of the patents, and it's an antitrust issue for leveraging their position and "dumping" in the market.
Of course, Microsoft's almost gleeful blog post about its complaint ignores all of this reality and history, and tries to position it as if Motorola and Google are trying to "kill" web and mobile video by charging too high a royalty rate. Frankly, for anyone who knows anything about Microsoft's patent practices over the past few years, they'll see through this and recognize how laughable Microsoft's claims are.
Either way, the situation is ridiculous. Fighting over patents doesn't help bring any new innovations to market. It just diverts money to the lawyers.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Oct 21st 2011 7:39pm
from the doesn't-computer dept
Walter Isaacson's authorized biography of Steve Jobs offers an unprecedented look at the Apple co-founder's battle-cry against Google, a company he thought was guilty of a "grand theft" when it launched its Android operating system, which competes directly with the iPhone and has surpassed it in popularity.This is coming from Steve Jobs, who was inspired by the graphical user interface he saw at Xerox PARC and turned that into the Macintosh. Now, as we've noted before, what Jobs was always great at doing wasn't just taking an idea and copying it, but making it better. But, many would argue that's the same thing that Google has done with Android. Yes, they clearly took inspiration from the iPhone, but there are some key differences, which many people enjoy. In fact, Steve Jobs pretty much admitted this very fact earlier this year when some of the iPhone's upgrades appeared to be copied directly from Android.
"I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this," he told Isaacson of the patent lawsuit Apple filed against cell phone manufacturer HTC.
In Isaacson's "Steve Jobs," a copy of which was obtained by The Huffington Post, the author recalls that Jobs, who was known for his fierce temper, "became angrier than I had ever seen him" during a conversation about Apple's patent lawsuit, which by extension also accused Android of patent infringement.
"Our lawsuit is saying, 'Google you f***ing ripped off the iPhone, wholesale ripped us off,'" Jobs said, according to Isaacson. "I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product."
And that's kind of the point: part of the way innovation works is that you build on the works of others. That doesn't just mean wholesale copying, but trying to take what works and improve on it -- or take what doesn't work well and figure out a way to make it work better. Steve Jobs did this many, many times, but so have Google and many other companies. It seems rather hypocritical to get all bent out of shape because others are doing the same thing.
Along those lines, Daring Fireball links to a wonderful discussion on this topic by designer Brian Ford, who discusses the idea of "artists copying or stealing" from one another.
Apple didn’t invent the iPod, they stole the idea and made the music industry their own. The way we buy and listen to music is now shaped almost entirely by Apple’s vision.I completely agree with those points. It's quite similar to an earlier post we did about the importance of getting it right rather than being first, which pointed to a wonderful comic from Scott Meyer's Basic Instructions that included this panel:
Apple didn’t invent the smartphone, they stole the idea and reshaped the industry in their own vision. Yes, Apple has “copied” bits and pieces of iOS from other sources —notifications is the obvious example — but overall, the future of the mobile industry has been shaped by Apple.
Apple didn’t invent the tablet computer, they stole the idea and now iOS is the template for the tablet market.
In the end, the best way to sum all this up comes from the T.S. Eliot quote that Ford puts at the end of his blog post. Many people have heard the paraphrased version (often copied and attributed to others) that "good artists copy, great artists steal." But the full T.S. Eliot quote is much more interesting and nuanced:
One of the surest tests [of the superiority or inferiority of a poet] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Sep 15th 2011 6:03am
from the might-be-the-wrong-target dept
by Mike Masnick
Wed, May 5th 2010 5:34pm
from the privacy-concerns dept
The Citizen Media Law Project has a good discussion about the FBI getting access to documents stored in Google Docs as part of a spam investigation. In that case, the FBI did go through the process of getting a full search warrant (which should have satisfied some of the 4th Amendment concerns), but it's the first case on record of the FBI getting access to Google Docs.
Part of the problem here is that this sort of stuff is covered under a law that's nearly a quarter of a century old, and is not even remotely designed for a modern technology world:
The current federal statute on the issue, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), 18 U.S.C. § 2510, et seq., basically extended the rules regarding government access to older technologies like the telephone (e.g., wiretapping) to electronic communications. The USA Patriot Act, passed after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, modified these old rules a bit. But the basic, underlying statute was passed in 1986, before the advent and widespread use of email, text messaging, social networking websites, and the myriad other means of modern communications.What's interesting is how little attention these issues seem to be getting -- even though they can have a pretty large impact. And, even though this may seem like legal details, it applies well outside the legal field as well. While it won't be the key focus, we're even going to include a short section on these kinds of legal issues in the cloud in our upcoming webinar on cloud security (register here). While this might not seem directly like a security issue, if you're in charge of keeping data secure, it's pretty important to know what it means when the feds knock on your door... or the door of the third party "cloud" provider to whom you outsourced your company's data.
As others have explained at length, ECPA creates an exceedingly dense and confusing statutory framework, and relies on a series of archaic distinctions, such as whether a communication is "stored" or "in transit." This complexity creates uncertainty about what showing law enforcement has to make in order to access user materials stored in the cloud. Is a search warrant, a subpoena, or an informal request required? Under what circumstances can service providers voluntarily cooperate with law enforcement?