Sunday, November 25, 2007
Posted by Martin LaMonica
The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) said it has filed suit against two companies for allegedly violating the General Public License, which covers usage of Linux and thousands of other free and open-source products.
The suits are the second and third time that the nonprofit foundation has filed suit, signaling a willingness to use the court system to enforce the GPL.
The plaintiffs are two programmers--Erik Andersen and Rob Landley--who wrote BusyBox, software covered by the GPL version 2 often used in conjunction with the Linux operating system in embedded devices.
The suit was filed against Xterasys and High-Gain Antennas; both companies manufacture wireless communications hardware.
The SFLC said it had contacted the two companies to notify them about the alleged violations but were forced to file suit because they received no response.
In October, it settled a similar case with Monsoon Multimedia filed on behalf of the same plaintiffs over use of the BusyBox software.
Under the terms of the GPL version 2, people who make additions to software covered by the GPL have to make the source code of that program available.
"We let companies do what they like with BusyBox on their hardware, and what we asked in return was that they let us reproduce what they've done with BusyBox on our hardware. That's the deal embodied in the GPL," said Rob Landley, in a statement.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Other advertisers are worried Google could dominate the internet
European Union regulators have launched an in-depth investigation into Google's $3.1bn (£1.5bn) takeover of online advertising firm DoubleClick.
The EU Commission said its initial probe had shown the deal would raise competition concerns.
It has set itself a deadline of 2 April 2008 to reach a decision.
Google said it would work with the Commission to show how the acquisition would benefit publishers, advertisers and consumers.
"We seek to avoid further delays that might put us at a disadvantage in competing fully against Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL and others whose acquisitions in the highly competitive online advertising market have already been approved," said Google boss Eric Schmidt.
The European Commission is working closely on the case with the US Federal Trade Commission, which has been reviewing the deal since May.
Both Google and DoubleClick are involved in online advertising, although they have different roles.
DoubleClick helps link up advertising agencies, marketers and web site publishers hoping to put ads online and track them.
Google allows firms to target advertising at people using particular search terms and also stores information about users' internet surfing habits.
Monday, November 5, 2007
Google is reportedly rolling out its mobile operating system and one thing is clear: It’s going to make a big splash. The question is who will drown in Google’s wake?
The reports about Google’s Android phone software are multiplying at a rapid rate. The New York Times did a big profile of Andy Rubin, the guy behind Google’s mobile plans (you don’t think that access would have been granted if this launch wasn’t happening do you?). Rubin joined Google when the search giant bought his company–Android–in 2005. News.com’s Tom Krazit reports that Google will announce its mobile phone software stack Monday and has some detail on the 30 companies lined up as partners.
But once the details emerge the real handicapping begins. What’s the impact of Google’s mobile moves? Will Google really reshape the wireless industry? Here’s a look at some of the winners and losers and a few companies left on the fence:
- Google: The search giant has managed to line up a big chunk of the wireless industry, cordoned off some mobile advertising inventory and may have found away to commoditize the wireless operating system. If reports are to believed Google’s operating system won’t appear until the middle of 2008. Couple Google’s Android plan with its OpenSocial movement and the search giant looks like it can rally partners with mutual interests.
- Sprint: The wireless carrier is struggling and needs a plan. By aligning with Google–by most counts Sprint will be on the partner roster–Sprint may give itself a much needed spark. This effect may be magnified if Verizon Wireless isn’t on board with Google. AT&T isn’t expected to get cozy with Google yet.
- Developers: Google’s mobile software stack is giving developers some open field to play with. I’ll be one of the many who will be curious to see what they do with it. At the very least, Google is giving developers another software development stack to tweak. This is part of Google’s new openness–moving away from proprietary software where it makes sense, meaning accelerating the growth of the Web overall, breaking down the old order and creating more inventory to monetize.
- Open source: Google’s Android is expected to integrate parts of Linux. This is a mobile victory for the open source movement in what remains a proprietary wireless world. The leading mobile software players are all proprietary.
- Handset makers: Google’s mobile software stack sounds like it’ll come cheap–like free. This fact enables handset makers to push the envelope on the hardware side of the equation. Add it up and you may get cheaper phones with more features and maybe even a cut of ad revenue.
Yet to be determined:
- Apple: A few folks have taken Google’s leap to surmise that Apple will be hurt somehow. There may be some potential impact, but there’s a cure for this line of thinking. Repeat after me: Apple sells hardware. Apple sells hardware. Apple sells hardware. Think about it. Apple’s game is selling Macs, iPods and iPhones. Sure software helps, but Apple lives and dies by hardware sales. With that perspective, Google’s mobile operating system doesn’t look like that big of a threat. Apple wasn’t planning for OS X to dominate the mobile world anyway. And if Google gets too much mojo Apple could just sell you iPhones with Google preloaded. After all, Google CEO Eric Schmidt is on Apple’s board of directors.
- Microsoft: The open source supporters and technology’s talking heads will try to lead you to believe that Windows Mobile is toast. Don’t hold your breath. Windows Mobile is entrenched, has a big footprint in the corporate world and is a key partner to wireless carriers and developers. Whatever Google cooks up isn’t likely to change that equation overnight. Just like Windows vs. Linux it’s not a zero sum game.
- Consumers: Mobile phone users will apparently get better software out of this Google move. But if the trade off is more ads on your phone it may be a wash for some.
- Palm: Man it gets tiring kicking Palm, but it’s clear this former high flier has major problems. Wasn’t Palm trying to cook up its own Linux based operating system? Yup. It’s late to the party and looks like Google will get any momentum that may come its way. The Palm OS is rapidly becoming a footnote to the history of the wireless market.
- Wireless carriers’ current business model: Wireless carriers have a model that is extremely controlling. These companies tell you what handsets you can buy, what you download and impose limitations. Google’s software could pry the standard wireless model open. What carriers wind up in the loser category vs. yet to be determined remains to be seen. AT&T and Verizon Wireless are entrenched and aren’t going to be immediately impacted. Sprint will be a winner. In the grand scheme of things, Google is nibbling away at the standard wireless business model.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Details emerged today on Google’s broad social networking ambitions, first reported here in late September, with a follow up earlier this week. The new project, called OpenSocial (URL will go live on Thursday), goes well beyond what we’ve previously reported. It is a set of common APIs that application developers can use to create applications that work on any social networks (called “hosts”) that choose to participate.
What they haven’t done is launch yet another social network platform. As more and more of these platforms launch, developers have difficult choices to make. There are costs associated with writing and maintaining applications for these social networks. Most developers will choose one or two platforms and ignore the rest, based on a simple cost/benefit analysis.
Google wants to create an easy way for developers to create an application that works on all social networks. And if they pull it off, they’ll be in the center, controlling the network.
What They’re Launching
OpenSocial is a set of three common APIs, defined by Google with input from partners, that allow developers to access core functions and information at social networks:
- Profile Information (user data)
- Friends Information (social graph)
- Activities (things that happen, News Feed type stuff)
Hosts agree to accept the API calls and return appropriate data. Google won’t try to provide universal API coverage for special use cases, instead focusing on the most common uses. Specialized functions/data can be accessed from the hosts directly via their own APIs.
Applications can have full functionality on profile and/or canvas pages, subject to the specific rules of each host. Facebook, by contrast, limits most functionality to the canvas page, allowing a widget on the profile page with limited features.
OpenSocial is silent when it comes to specific rules and policies of the hosts, like whether or not advertising is accepted or whether any developer can get in without applying first (the Facebook approach). Hosts set and enforce their own policies. The APIs are created with maximum flexibility.
Partners are in two categories: hosts and developers. Hosts are the participating social networks, and include Orkut, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Ning, Hi5, Plaxo, Friendster, Viadeo and Oracle.
Developers include Flixster, iLike, RockYou and Slide.
What This Means
The timing of OpenSocial couldn’t be better. Developers have been complaining non stop about the costs of learning yet another markup launguage for every new social network platform, and taking developer time in creating and maintaining the code. Someone had to build a system to streamline this (as we said in the last few sentences in this post). And Facebook-fear has clearly driven good partners to side with Google. Developers will immediately start building on these APIs to get distribution across the impressive list of hosts above.
And they’ll do it soon, too. It’s clear that the developers who arrived early to the Facebook Platform party won easy customers. Those that came later had to fight much harder. Developers found their new gold strike, and they will soon all be there, mining away.