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Shocker Of The Day

by Jason Wilk on August 12, 2009

  • A Texas judge ruled this morning that Microsoft cannot sell one of its flagship products, Word, in the United States because of patent infringement. Yes, you heard correct: Microsoft cannot sell Word, the judge ruled.
  • Judge Leonard Davis, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, ordered a permanent injunction that “prohibits Microsoft from selling or importing to the United States any Microsoft Word products that have the capability of opening .XML, .DOCX or DOCM files (XML files) containing custom XML”.
  • Seattle PI quotes “XML essentially is a programming language that allows users to customize the underlying format of their word-processing documents, for example, and makes them readable across different word-processing programs. The ability to read and write XML documents is an integral feature of Microsoft Word. In its complaint (PDF), i4i alleges Microsoft willingly violated its 1998 patent (No. 5,787,449) on a method for reading XML. The company, whose Web site advertises that users can ‘Create and edit XML content in Microsoft Word,’ helps clients work with XML”
  • Along with Microsoft losing Word, Judge Davis also ordered Microsoft to pay i4i more than $290 million in damages. Microsoft said “We are disappointed by the court’s ruling,” Microsoft spokesman Kevin Kutz said in a statement. “We believe the evidence clearly demonstrated that we do not infringe and that the i4i patent is invalid. We will appeal the verdict.” It is unknown in Microsoft will be able to get this ruling turned around.


RIM Executives Caught In Options Scandal

by Jason Wilk on February 17, 2009

  • In a recessed economy where millions are out of work and executive compensation is under harsh scrutiny, the last thing you want to get yourself into is an options scandal. Well, the SEC dropped the ball on Ontario, Canada-based Research In Motion (RIMM) today, whose executives have been illegally backdating stock options since 1998. They will face immediate punishment. Here is what the filing says:

Chief Financial Officer Dennis Kavelman, former Vice President of Finance Angelo Loberto, and Co-Chief Executive Officers James Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis illegally granted undisclosed, in-the-money options to RIM executives and employees by backdating millions of stock options over an eight-year period from 1998 through 2006. As alleged in our complaint, RIM and its highest level executives engaged in widespread backdating of options which provided them and other employees with millions of dollars in undisclosed compensation. Companies and executives who attempt to conceal their fraudulent conduct from investors and regulators will be held accountable (Linda Chatman Thomsen, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement).

  • In summary, the SEC alleges that the defendants made false and misleading disclosures about how RIM priced and accounted for options. In addition, according to the complaint, the backdating violated the terms of RIM’s stock option plan and a listing requirement of the Toronto Stock Exchange. The complaint also alleges that Kavelman and Loberto knowingly hid the backdating from regulators, RIM’s independent auditor and outside lawyer. Kavelman and Lobertowould pick low strike prices within reporting periods and in some instances avoided the lowest price so regulators would not detect the backdating. The allegations also detail that all four executives were aware of backdating issues and lied to shareholders at RIM’s July 2006 annual shareholder meeting
  • Here is a breakdown of what each executive will have to pay in penalty. $500,000 for Kavelman; $425,000 for Loberto; $350,000 for Balsillie; and $150,000 for Lazaridis. The individual defendants also agreed to disgorge the in-the-money value of backdated options they had exercised ($132,914.60 for Kavelman, $47,950.56 for Loberto, $334,250 for Balsillie and $328,300 for Lazaridis) plus interest. Their disgorgement will be deemed satisfied by their previous payment of these amounts to RIM.


  • The above video is from Luke Hutchinson, a mobile developer, who helped debunk the rumor today (via comments) on VentureBeat that Google took out the multi-touch capabilities on the G1 Android phone because Apple put pressure on them. Why is this important? Because whether or not this is true plays a huge part in whether or not the rumors of Apple suing Palm over their new multi-touch Pre is legitimate or not. Last week I broke down why the lawsuit would not happen between the two companies. This analysis by Luke gives us a little more insight into what actually happened with Apple and Google over multi-touch.

I’m the guy that implemented the multitouch solution shown in the video above. Forget the conspiracy theory. There isn’t a trace of implemented-then-removed multitouch code in the Android codebase, I have been through pretty much all of it that has anything to do with event processing, from the low-level kernel driver to the singleton class that receives events across the JNI bridge to the event processing pipeline. The kernel driver always supported multitouch because it is based off of generic synaptics code that already supported multitouch.

My conclusions after going through the code and scouring the web for reasons why it wasn’t implemented in 1.0, as well as conversations with Google employees and all sorts of interactions with the community since the multitouch release are the following:

(1) The G1 was simply never intended to be a multi-touch device. HTC didn’t spec it that way (their top leadership came out and said “it was designed to be a single-touch device”), Google didn’t ask for them to design an MT-capable device, it wasn’t on Google’s list of things to do for 1.0.

(2) Apple’s multitouch patent may not even cover the pinch gesture. So far they have not even approached me with a C&D, and I don’t expect they will. (And anyway, I never made a cent off of this, and I am doing no more development on multitouch now that the capability is out there in firmware images that you can flash on your own phone.)

(3) Google *is* interested in multitouch capabilities, it’s just nowhere near the top of their priority list. Anyone in the community could step forward today with a well-designed extension to the MotionEvent class that properly supports MT, and the Google guys and gals would vet it just like any other community submission, and it would stand as good a chance of making it into the codebase as anything else. (HOWEVER the Google Android engineers have been rushed off their feet for about the last two years straight, including lots of late nights and weekends, and the pace sped up if anything after 1.0, so they are so busy with their own internal priorities that the Android *platform* is only a community project in name at the moment, because the ones that can actually commit to the repository at the moment are mostly/all(?) Google engineers, and they’re just plain flat-out busy… time will tell if that changes, or if their community module ownership handout system works.)

(4) Google will deal with legal issues if and when they come up, but that hardly stops them doing something they think should be done. Take a look at Book Search and YouTube ;-) (I know, I used to work at Google on Book Search…)

(5) Apparently the driver for a resistive MT-capable/iPhone-like touchscreen was checked into the git kernel tree after the 1.0 release, so we now have (at least?) two MT-capable drivers in the tree. This is barely surprising given the huge number of Android devices of every form factor currently in the pipeline. You can bet somebody wants to market the devices even if it means licensing from / fighting with Apple.

(6) I could go on, but basically put away your tinfoil hats, people.

(7) One more thing: if you really want to know what happened with Android 1.0, read through the Android platform source. All of it. Or as much as you possibly can in the next year or so. You will quickly come to realize that the pulling-together of Android in the short period of time over which it was accomplished constitutes one of the greatest software engineering accomplishments of our time. The code is, for the most part, polished, clean, well-written, low on bugs and seamlessly integrated. I don’t know how on earth they managed to (a) write (/acquire :) ) that amount of code in such a short time, (b) so seamlessly integrate the efforts of what must have been a very large number of programmers, and (c) somehow also build a complete working lightweight linux distribution, an Eclipse IDE and debugger, an entirely new VM, and (working with HTC) an actual physical device that stands to be one of the best physical 1.0 releases of a complex device of all time.

Once you catch the vision of that, you will understand why MT conspiracies are ridiculous — why would MT or other bling even be an issue when you’re trying to accomplish so many far more difficult engineering tasks and meet a shipping deadline?

Trying to stay up on your mobile game? Check out these articles.

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Update: Why Apple Will Not Pursue A Palm Lawsuit

by Jason Wilk on February 10, 2009

  • You’ve probably heard Apple may be suing Palm over the new Pre phone, but will they? Tim Cook started the conversation out the other day with “We like competition. As long as they don’t rip off our IP and if they do we’re going to go after anybody that does,” he said. If it there is one company that Cook was pointing a finger at, it is definitely Palm. Although it has yet to hit the hands of consumers, Apple is supposedly concerned about the multi-touch screen on the Palm Pre that can be controlled using a two-fingered pinch, just like the iPhone. Apple has applied for a patent to cover that multi-touch gesture technology in mobile devices, but it has yet to be granted. One thing for sure that was sure to set off Apple was that the engineer on the Palm Pre is an ex-Apple product engineer.
  • Nonetheless, Apple will not win any case against Palm nor will they pursue it but damn does it look similar). Patent pending multi-touch gestures for different surfaces are a dime a dozen. To name a couple, there is HTC (and 5 other OEM’s) who is working with Android on their soon to release multi-touch phone. On wall surfaces and tabletops, Perceptive Pixel has patents pending for their signature gestures. Each surface uses the similar pinch move in some way or another to re-size certain areas, photos, browser windows, etc. Because it is reasonably necessary for a user to interact with the device in that manner to reach its full effectiveness (which has been proven with current and prior pending patent applications to Apple), Apple will do nothing more than flex their general counsel power to try and scare off anymore competitors trying to intrude on potential IP hijackings. It’s not like Apple hasn’t gotten a little overzealous with their treatment of others IP in the past . Cough cough, Visual Voicemail.

Update: There are bold claims coming out of VentureBeat today that they spoke with an Android developer who claimed Google did not integrate multi-touch on the G1 because Apple ‘asked them’ not to. MG Siegler, a VB writer, claimed that the G1 is capable of multi-touch gestures, but the code to enable it was taken out. This is not true. My article stands, Apple will not sue Palm over the Pre.


Apple Shareholders Misled In Jobs Health Dilemma

by Jason Wilk on January 14, 2009

  • Not news to anyone by now, Steve Jobs has left Apple on medical leave. I’m no longer an investor in Apple, but for those that are, the ethics behind his leave has become a heated debate. The questions being asked are: (1) We’re Apple shareholders being kept in the dark regarding the condition of Steve for too long? (2) And did the letter he issued last week disclose the seriousness of the issue at hand? To address the first question, yes, shareholders were kept in the dark for too long on even the ware abouts of Mr. Jobs. Until he issued the letter, the news space was buzzing  about his health and overall disappearance from public appearance (except for Yogurt) for 6 weeks. This on top of the fact that it has been since June 2008 that no one was able to receive any answers as to why he had lost so much weight. To answer the second question, no, the letter he issued did not express the seriousness of the issue, nor did it hint that he was on his way out. The letter promised that he would have no more to say about his health, implying that his condition was stable enough that it would not need to be addressed again. A hormone imbalance can be caused by a number of serious conditions, including pancreatic cancer, which Steve was originally diagnosed with in 2004. Because the letter didn’t hint at anything serious, Apple’s stock had gone up for the day because it alleviated shareholders or potential shareholders. Since what Jobs really meant is that he is too sick to run the company, after hours trading has already left Apple down 7%, and the stock is expected to drop as much as 15% tomorrow.
  • What will happen now is a shareholder lawsuit from those who feel they were misled (and lost a lot of money too). The case will investigate who knew what, and for how long. They will also investigate the accuracy of the letter to the public as well as the deterioration of his health from when the letter was issued until he took medical leave. According to Clusterstock, ‘even if Jobs did not have full information about his poor condition, he may have violated his duties to shareholders. It’s not enough to simply avoid telling outright lies. Executives at public companies are held to a standard that requires them to avoid making materially misleading public statements if they lack an appropriate level of information’.
  • Keep an eye out for an official statement from Apple defending themselves. Best of luck.