Company ‘trusts’ users to voluntarily stay within bounds
On Thursday, Microsoft took the unprecedented step of launching a dedicated version of its Office productivity suite for the Apple iPad, giving all iPad users the ability to view Office documents on the go for free, and those willing to pay $100 per year for an Office 365 subscription the power to edit and create them. There’s a slight problem, though.
Microsoft’s protracted patent battle with 30-man strong Canadian company i4i is finally over. The U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously turned down Microsoft’s appeal against a lower-court ruling ordering it to pay $290 million in damages for infringing one of i4i’s XML-related patents with certain versions of its popular word processing software. More after the jump.
Microsoft Office: Can’t live with it, can’t live with… ok, so that’s not entirely true. A number of you likely live without the Microsoft Office suite and, for that, I commend you. That’s not because there’s anything wrong with Office per se; it’s a pricing thing. I don’t always have the money to fork out for a new Office license for whatever systems I acquire, especially when compelling freeware alternatives present themselves in an easy-to-use (and easy-to-download) kind of fashion. Same goes for you.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But Dave,” you ask, “why not just install OpenOffice.org and be done with it?” That is certainly a solution for your Office woes. However, that doesn’t mean that the OpenOffice.org suite is the end-all be-all alternative to Microsoft Office Insert-Year-Here. From Web apps to downloadable programs, it’s entirely possible to recreate some of the best parts of this paid-for hunk of apps without resorting to the tried-and-true OpenOffice.org open-source bundle.
And guess what? By going the piecemeal route, you’ll be able to find some new features that simply don’t exist in either aforementioned bundle! So, that said, click the jump to check out some of the best freeware and open-source Microsoft Office replacement apps for your system!
Microsoft is starting to remind us of Rocky Balboa, except that the battles are taking place in court and we've stopped expecting a last minute comeback. The latest punch to Redmond's gut comes from the U.S. Court of appeals for the Federal Circuit, which rejected Microsoft's request for a rehearing in the patent dispute with Canadian software developer i4i.
"This has been a long and arduous process, but this decision is a powerful reinforcement of the message that smaller enterprises and inventors who own intellectual property can and will be protected," said i4i chairman Owen Louden.
I4i first sued Microsoft back in 2007 alleging that an XML editor built into Word runs afoul of its patent. The Canadian company ultimately won the case along with a $290 million award, while Microsoft continues to lose appeal after appeal.
So is Microsoft finally ready to throw in the towel? Not hardly.
More bad news for Microsoft, who again was found guilty of willfully infringing on i4i's patents, this time by the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals.
Microsoft is quickly running out of avenues. This latest verdict is the second time an appeals court affirmed i4i's patent win, which requires Redmond to fork over more than $240 million in damages, as well as remove a feature in versions of Microsoft Word 2007 that lets people create custom XML documents.
"A reasonable jury could have concluded that Microsoft 'willfully' infringed the 449 patents based on the evidence present at the trial," the judges wrote. "Similarly, there is no evidence Microsoft ever made a good faith effort to avoid infringement, internal emails show Microsoft intended to render i4i's product 'obsolete' and assure 'there won't be a need for [i4i's] product.'"
So is it time to throw in the towel? Not quite. According to InfoWorld.com, the panel will now circulate the document to the rest of the judges on the appeals court, who will then decide whether honor Microsoft's request for an en banc review. If the request is approved, all 12 appeals court judges will reconsider the case.
"From our perspective, there are only so many more avenues for appeals for them," said Loudon Owen, chairman of i4i.
Microsoft isn't yet finished fighting what it considers the good fight and has filed a second appeal in its patent case against i4i. According to Microsoft, the original judgment could set a dangerous precedent for future patent cases, TGDaily reports.
The dispute stems from August of last year, in which Microsoft was found guilty of violating an XML patent held by Toronto-based i4i. Microsoft was then banned from selling or importing into the U.S. any Word products capable of opening .xml, .docx, or .docm files containing custom XML. Microsoft would appeal, but lost its case in December.
In this second appeal, Microsoft contends that "the December 22 decision creates [significant conflicts] with established precedents governing trial procedure and the determination of damages, and we are concerned that the decision weakens judges' authority to apply appropriate safeguards in future patent trials."
i4i wasn't caught off guard by the latest appeal, saying "this next step of seeking a rehearing was anticipated."
It happens to everybody. You're in charge of a big project at work (or school, if you're a younger Maximum PC fan). A group of people all email you their changes to a specific document at once, and it's your job to merge everyone's thoughts into one coherent final project. That sounds like an arduous task even if you're equipped with a program like Microsoft Word. If you're just relying on your eyeballs and good ol' Wordpad, however, you're in for quite a battle.
So stop. Don't try to go through these many, many documents and the many, many headaches that they'll deliver over the course of hours. There's a handy site that will make your editing life much easier, and it's as easy to operate as your standard word processor. In fact, I dare say it's even easier than a standard Microsoft Word or OpenOffice.org interface. The site's called CompareMyDocs and, as its name implies, it's an awesome tool for quickly tracking the changes between up to seven documents at once.
Hear that? Seven documents. How many can you you compare in Word? Two. If that's still not enticing enough to get you to check out this Web App, just wait until you see how it works! ...after the jump, of course.
The litigation gods don't seem to be favoring Microsoft at the moment. A U.S court of appeals dashed all its hopes of a turnaround in its legal battle with Canadian firm i4i when it upheld a previous ruling against the Redmond-based company on Tuesday. In August, a U.S District Judge had ruled that certain versions of Microsoft Word encroach upon i4i's patents and consequently slapped the software giant with a $290 million fine, besides placing an injunction on the sale of all infringing versions of Word in the U.S.
The appeals court had stayed the injunction in September until the matter was in consideration. But now that it has affirmed the previous ruling against Microsoft, there is very little the company can do apart from purging Word 2007 and Office 2007 of the features that violate i4i's patents. According to a Reuters report, the company is already taking the necessary corrective measures.
However, the company is also exploring other legal options, including a rehearing by a full panel of judges or a Supreme Court review, according to its spokesperson Kevin Kutz. A spokesperson for i4i said it is “pleased with the court's decision to uphold the injunction, an important step in protecting the property rights of small inventors.” This small inventor with a vindictive name certainly has every reason to be pleased.
A Texas Judge on Tuesday ordered Microsoft to stop "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." The injunction is the result of a complaint filed by Toronto-based i4i alleging Microsoft of violating its 1998 patent (No. 5,787,449) on a method for reading XML.
"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."
The Judge also ordered Microsoft pay i4i $240 million in damages plus court costs and interest. All tallied, the fine is estimated to be more than $290 million.
As it currently stands, the ruling, which applies to Word 2003 and Word 2007, takes effect in 60 days.
It's official - the Global Language Monitor, which analyzes and tracks trends in language, has dubbed "Web 2.0" as the one millionth word. To qualify, potential words must appear 25,000 times in searches and be widely accepted. Web 2.0 fit that criteria, beating out Jai Ho, Noob, Slumdog, and Cloud Computing (among others) as the millionth English word or phrase.
The list has some linguists up in arms, who dismissed the whole thing as nothing more than a publicity stunt.
"I think it's pure fraud. I'ts not bad science. It's nonsense," Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguistics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, told reporters.
His and other similar opinions didn't seem to phase Paul JJ Payack, president of the Global Language Monitor, who insisted that his method has merit.
"If you want to count the stars in the sky, you have to define what a star is first and then count," Payack said. "Our criteria is quite plain and if you follow those criteria you can count words. Most academics say what we are doing is very valuable."