2007-05-28: MSFT Living Up To "Evil Empire" Name
Microsoft recently made claims that free and open source software (FLOSS) such as the Linux operating system and the OpenOffice.org office applications suite violate hundreds of its patents.
A broad community of developers, from individuals to large companies like IBM, is constantly working to improve it and introduce new features. No wonder the business world has embraced it so enthusiastically: More than half the companies in the Fortune 500 are thought to be using the free operating system Linux in their data centers.
But now there's a shadow hanging over Linux and other free software, and it's being cast by Microsoft. The Redmond behemoth asserts that one reason free software is of such high quality is that it violates more than 200 of Microsoft's patents. And as a mature company facing unfavorable market trends and fearsome competitors like Google, Microsoft is pulling no punches: It wants royalties. If the company gets its way, free software won't be free anymore.
There are a few misunderstandings about free software in the article, but let us focus directly on the point that is being made: Microsoft is threatening to use patents to eliminate competition that meets users' needs better than Microsoft's own offerings do, at a lower cost to those users.
Patents should not apply to software anyway, as software is merely the embodiment of mathematical algorithms. Can you imagine being required to license the Pythagorean Theorem in order to use it? A2 + B2 = C2. That would put every middle school and high school math teacher out of business. Within a few years, the cashiers at Gree-C-Burger would not be able to count up change and the industry would have to use remote call centers to handle drive-through ordering. Just wait until someone installs a cash collector similar to the ones in vending machines that never work correctly.
There is even a new patent for the use of coded URLs to enable single-click orders of repeat items. That one has lots of prior art, but it also has the ability to be manipulated: somebody's bot could crawl through and trigger hundreds of orders unintentionally.
Patents are for new inventions, that is, physical objects that do something in an previously unknown way. When we misuse them in areas where they aren't suited, such as software and business processes, we wind up with needing to license the right to embed a USERID code in a link when we send out e-mail newsletters or licensing the right to use an online "campus" site for education and training purposes.
Free software is not necessarily freeware. Freeware is software with a price of zero. Free software, on the other hand, may cost money, but comes with a license that guarantees your freedom. Free software is good for the end user and the programmer, and anyone that opposes that is actually arguing against their own customers and employees.
2007-05-21: Apache Loses Share, Now 56%
This month's numbers are a little less positive for Apache. In part, this is due to Netcraft attempting to make their reports more accurate and detailed. In recent months, they have started reporting the share of Lighttpd, for example. Prior to this, at least one site spoofed lighttpd as Apache, so that it would be counted in some FLOSS server instead of being ignored.
This month's decline in Apache's share is explained this way by Netcraft:
With this month's survey, Netcraft has begun tracking Google's custom web server software known as GFE (Google Front End), which is currently found on 2.7 million hostnames, or 2.3% of all sites.... The GFE hostnames had previously been grouped under Apache, which sees a reduction in sites. As a result, Apache's market share slips by 2.86 percent to 56 percent ....I do not know whether GFE began as an Apache derivative, so I have no opinion as to whether this improves the accuracy of the survey's division of its results into server software product "families", such as Apache (which, I believe, includes 1.x and 2.x branches as well as derivatives such as Advanced Extranet Server and Stronghold) and Microsoft (includes IIS and PWS).
I notice that Apache still grew in the number of active sites using the platform, to 31,896,813.
Lighttpd, mentioned above, is also FLOSS, so we wish to see it continue to grow both in the number and percentage of sites hosted with the software.
2007-05-03: Questions Arise About Market Share Numbers
More Macs Mean Many Fewer PCsThis is more news showing that, despite the bragging, Microsoft's Windows Vista is unwanted by consumers and corporations. Apple's unit sales rose significantly over the past year, and each Mac tends to last about twice as long as a PC.
The worst news for Microsoft is that every new Mac sold to a former PC user means that at least two Windows PCs will go unsold: the initial PC and its mid-life crisis, second string replacement.
Compared to the 240 million PCs sold last year, Apple’s small share of around 6 million Macs per year won’t put Microsoft out of business any time soon. However, it means that 12 million Windows licenses will go unsold. That’s up from less than 4 million Macs eating up 8 million potential Windows licenses just two years ago.
The faster Apple grows, the more devastating this effect will be to Microsoft's automatic sales machine, which in turn will help open the market up to new choice and options, including Linux desktops. Once Microsoft loses its monopoly control of the OEM market, Windows will fare as well in the market as the Zune.
A prime segment of choosy consumers are going out of their way to not buy Windows. Microsoft doesn’t want to dominate the low end of cheap PCs; that market is already headed towards Linux anyway.
Microsoft wants to retain the valuable top tier of the PC market, the segment rapidly buying new Macs.
2007-05-02: Apache Gets Small Gain
The monthly Netcraft Web server survey for April 2007 showed that Apache Web server and its derivatives managed to gain some market share compared to the March survey. Apache now has 58.86% of the market, a 0.24% share increase from the prior month. By comparison, the nearest competitor, Microsoft's IIS (and other Microsoft products) had 31.13%, an increase of 0.11% from the prior survey. Until the beginning of 2006, Apache was approaching an 80% share, while IIS was struggling to stay near 20%.
Apache is an example of FLOSS being superior to it proprietary competition.
We believe that FLOSS (Free / Libré and Open Source Software) is the wave of the future. Soon, all proprietary software companies will need to accommodate FLOSS in their design and marketing, or be kicked to the curb as unusable.
2007-05-02: Virtualization Helps Apple Gain Market Share
Virtualization is helping free computer users, including business enterprises, from captivity to their hardware or operating system vendors. I am looking forward to the day when most Windows licenses are sold for the purpose of running the OS inside of Linux, FreeBSD, or similar Unix-like operating systems (including Mac OS X).
Already, those who use FLOSS within virtual machines on the server side are beginning to appreciate the stability that usually characterizes "enterprise" versions of the software. It will not be long before they begin to replace proprietary operating systems and applications with their FLOSS equivalents or to use FLOSS to host those proprietary systems inside of VMs.
We all know the truth: the days of proprietary software controlling the general market is ending. Proprietary will evolve to be specialized niche products and enhanced functionality products--but the general market is going toward FLOSS rather quickly. The pushback on Microsoft Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007's OOXML formats is showing that people are willing to abandon the leading proprietary products if they do not meet their needs.
In my home, for example, one year ago, there were 12 computers, 2 of which had non-Microsoft operating systems. There are now four that we are using with Windows XP, and one of those is set to convert to a Ubuntu Linux derivative (Linux Mint) as soon as they come out with a version based on the Ubuntu 7.04 family. The current version of Linux Mint (based on Ubuntu 6.10) automatically picked up the wireless card and all other hardware. :-)