Monday, August 15, 2005

Microsoft v iPod? Not really

I have been reading many different reports over the weekend regarding a supposed patent dispute between Microsoft and Apple over the iPod. The more I read about it, the more confused I become, because this seems like one of those stories invented by bored journalists with nothing else to do during the silly season. It seems like it all began with a story in AppleInsider about a failed patent application by Apple, where the application failed because of another conflicting application by inventor John C. Platt from Microsoft.

This seemed straightforward enough, no conflict here, right? Not according to El Reg's Andrew Orlowski (infamous for his FUD articles). Orlowski wrote an article on Wednesday stating that there is a patent "tussle" between Microsoft and Apple over a software patent. Being The Register, it immediately got picked up by the blogosphere, and the story spread like fleas in a camel market.

The problem is that the story has been replicated without noticing that there is no such "tussle". Apple has had a broad software patent rejected because there is another broad software patent on its way, while there are at least 50 similar software patents protecting media players and playlists (see for example, U.S. patent 6,868,440). To me the worst thing is that the story then gets picked up by "journalists" in mainstream websites and news sources. ZDNet for example goes as far as stating that:

"While Microsoft has struggled to challenge the iPod in the market, the software giant's lawyers have managed to slow Apple's attempt to patent its digital music technology."
What? Where did they get that? Take regurgitated information from an originally badly researched article by somebody who doesn't know what they're talking about, and produce a conspiracy theory about evil Microsoft lawyers attempting to take our iPods away. Take other ill-researched articles, and you have an internet outrage. Thankfully, there are still some good journalists out there. Forbes has an article stating that this is all a big fabricated controversy, but it may just be that they are parroting the words from Microsoft's IP division about how great their patent is.

The fact is that this is all a great fabrication. Apple and Microsoft already cross-license their patents, and it doesn't matter who gets it first in the grand scheme of things. What's two more software patents in the market? What I find interesting is how bad information replicates online with such speed. Mainstream news sources are reproducing hogwash all the time, copying sources and paragraphs without displaying a scintilla of research. These people are the professionals, they get paid for doing this.

Is it any surprise that more and more people are getting their news from blogs?

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