Thursday, April 27, 2006

Patent Trolls

It's been an interesting 48 hours, I've swung from one side of the argument to the other a few times and I still don't know where I stand but lets talk about one of the most important issues facing western civilisation at the moment "Patent Trolls"

Yeh I know I'm a geek, what can I say, but seriously you may think this doesn't bother you but where would you be without your shiny new ipod.

The background of the argument is this......

Mr Jobs thinks of a cool new idea called an ipod and decides he wants to patent the gui circular wheel interface

Mr Jobs sets up factory's, creates job, hires secretary's, buys advertising (which makes tv free etc) maybe even hires you, in other words - Mr Jobs invents something that influences your life in ways you've never thought of.

Now Mr Jobs deserves protection because lets face it - you love ipod, you buy ipod, someone sees this and decides they want to build jpod (because j comes after i) and Mr Jobs is left with no way to pay back the money he invested coming up with the ipod in the first place.

So we come to a software project I've been involved with this week where these guys developed some technology over the past few years which was cutting edge at the time but nothing that couldn't be developed in a month or two with a room of 8-10 very smart guys.

They are about to raise $5m for approx 50% of their company. All good. Basically they deserve it as they have something cool that could be even cooler if they had money to get the word out faster.

Now they dont have any patents and to be honest whilst they could be applying for patents on a number of process areas a patent is only worth something if;
1/ someone infringes
2/ you have money to prosecute
3/ you win and the loser has money to pay you with (and your lawyer)

Should they have patented something for protection, maybe but patenting software concepts or processes are getting so much like splitting hairs that it's almost futile and a mine (mind even) field that causes nothing but distraction from the job you set out to do in the first place.....write cool software that makes peoples lives better.

So am I against software not particularly but then you have the 'rhinoceros head in the corner' that no one is talking about.......what happens when someone with really deep deep (no deeper even) pockets patents stuff that is so material to innovation that it's almost like they are taxing the air that you breath as a developer.

Mind Games
Intellectual Ventures happily invests in invention, while the tech world trembles in fear. An inside look at Nathan Myhrvold's $400 million IP experiment.

Read the story it's worth it but the basics of it are this this behemoth has invested $400M in buying/registering/acquiring approx 3000-5000 patents.

Some of which are so basic that you wont be able to develop anything without crossing 'Go' and paying your tax.

Some people are talking about how the founders of this company Nokia, Apple, Intel etc are only using this as a shield against other people suing them but..... it's the fear that no one knows if they will turn to the dark side and become something so scary that your ipod will disappear over night.

There is another interesting case thats currently before the US supreme court regarding the originator of innovation Ebay and a company called MercExchange.

There are two parts to this story -
The first part - Injunctive relief - here alwayson-network about how MercExchange patented the "buy it now" process that Ebay now make about $4B of the $12B in revenues last year.

This article basically says - MercExchange owns something and they want it back and to enforce the rights they own for it.

The second part - Good Patents V's Bad Patents - here on which basically talks about how the supreme court is considering ruling on bad patent holders who do nothing (patent trolls)...and have no ability to do anything with their inventions... and only sit on them for the sole purpose of licensing the technology - of course this is the modus operandi most of the official technology companies as well....even the ones such as Nokia, Apple and Intel

What they are really saying is we don't like the rules and we want you to change them to suit us..... nobody likes a cry baby.

p.s. no go and kiss a software engineer because without them your shiny new ipod would be nothing more than an expensive paperweight (just like your blackberry but that's an injunctive story for another time).

Saturday, April 22, 2006

750gb drives woo hoo

A PDF accidentally showed up on Seagate's website earlier today with the latest details on perpendicular desktop hard drives.

Two 750GB models have already shown up on the Seagate website. The Barracuda 7200.10
ST3750640A (PATA) and the ST3750640SA (SATA)

This can only be a "good thing" 750gb woo hoo, just when I was thinking of dumping some of my 100gb drives as well.

Life is good.


BTW for those of you who have nothing better to an email that I posted almost a year ago to the day about how perpendicular drives were first invented and what was even cooler was the flash educational awareness campaign that was released by hitachi at the same time. It's still one of the best marketing examples I've seen of explaining a difficult technical concept.

-----Original Message-----
From: dean collins []
Sent: Monday, 11 April 2005 1:12 AM
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: Marketing Excellence - personified
Macromedia Flash has been around for a few years now and whilst I’ve seen some good examples this has to be without a doubt the very best I’ve ever seen.

Hitachi are releasing a new form of Hard Drive technology, please read the first article and look at the diagram which is what most people would use in a PowerPoint to explain some fairly technical concepts.

Now look at how it should be done. This is without doubt the most outstanding explanation of a difficult technical concept and covers all the basic marketing messages what, why, how & what this means for you.

Regardless of your industry or background you will see how Flash can be used to deliver your messages.

Hope you found this of interest.


Friday, April 21, 2006

Home Sweet Home

Well as a lot of you already know I headed home to Australia for my first trip back since moving to NY over two years ago. Although I was heading back to be the Best Man at my buddy Shameek's wedding it turned into a bit of a work trip as I hadn't caught up in person with a lot of my clients in some time. (how's this for multicultural - the groom is an Australian Fijian-Indian who has been working in Germany for the past 3 years, Marrying an Australian born Italian who is hoping to move to the USA for their next overseas posting).

Firstly - fantastic trip - had a blast. Catching up with friends in person beats skype calls any day.

Sitting on Bronte Beach eating Char-Grilled Lamb Salad drinking the best latte I have tasted in 2 years just cant be beat (and all for $A12).

The reason for keeping my trip quiet and off my blog before arriving is that I was arriving to surprise one of my best friends Tabitha to take her out to lunch on the day of her birthday (little did I know she was going to surprise me by announcing she was pregnant to her boyfriend Damien and that they had both only found out the week before - lol, the look of terror in her eyes was worth the trip alone).

The lifestyle in Sydney just cant be beat. To put it into a perspective (unconsciously so) I'll tell you a story.

I arrived at 10.30pm on Monday night, walked out the airport terminal doors and breathed in the sweetest, warmest smelling air I had smelt and thought wow it's so polluted in New York.
It wasn't until the next morning I realised that the air was probably full of industrial pollution from St Peters and the jet fuel of the airport....and yet it still smelt sweeter.

There were lots of other personal revelations to the trip;

Such as running most mornings on the golf course near my old (and still unoccupied - thanks dad) apartment and feeling fit and fantastic (probably just the adrenaline the body hasn't felt in a while) and realising it's so much warmer than in NY at this time of the morning.

Being out with 18 of our friends on the bucks night and realising only 1 of us guys isn't yet married (and he's moving to Singapore in a few months so hurry while you can girls).

Wondering why the immigrants of the 50's-60's brought such fantastic food and coffee to Australia and yet the USA the largest recipient of the European wave eats crappy food most of the time and doesn't understand why the rest of us laugh.

Thinking about friends that go and friends that stay and how they are both important for their own reasons.

Thinking about how although it seems like nothing has happened while I was away it's the little things in people lives that are important, things that just dont get covered in emails or in monthly phone calls.

Firstly lets get this out of the way. What i found out most of all is that while I love Australia and there is no doubt in my mind that Sydney is one of the best cities in the world (leaving NY way behind) that I'm in no rush to go back.

It may just be that I still feel there is so much to achieve here in the USA (it may also be that Jodie and I have already decided we are probably going to move to Europe or possibly China/Japan after NY) that there was that warm feeling of knowing it would all still be there in a few years from now.

Now secondly lets get the other 'thing' out of the way. Australian business kicks US butt.

I felt this when I first came to NY that it appeared to a number of expat Australians that businesses in the USA have no idea about customer service, and that Australians are one of the most innovative cultures in the world.

I think what this comes down to is that when you 'win' a customer in Australia you hang on to them bending over backwards to make sure they are happy. In the USA if you lose a customer, no big deal you have 260 million other customers. It's almost like the scarcity of business has made us overtake the Americans at their own game of customer service (this statement was backed up when I dropped in to LA on the way back to stay with an American friend who has travelled backwards and forwards to Australia for extended periods of time and has never forgotten the statement she made to me about my local greek drycleaner in Rockdale and the lack of jelly donuts like back home - Hi Nikki)

Yes you can poo-pah it to our colonial history and that we have to be self reliant on string and bailing wire etc but it's true.

What I saw in Australia was some of the most innovate adopters of the very best the world has to offer.

What I also saw was one of the most colloquial markets - with salespeople selling to the same people they were 5 years ago. Where a small number control a lot of the opportunities and some of them aren't really all that interested in changing the status quo.

Would this be changed by increasing Australia's population twenty fold, possibly, would you want to? Well that's still a coin toss and I dont think I'm experienced enough to call it at the moment.

All I know is that I'm very very lucky to have grown up in a country like Australia and proud to call it my home.