Nokia Continues Asset Liquidation; Qt to Digia, Patents to Vringo

With the Q2 earning numbers still looming, Nokia has been trimming weight like a boss and there seems to be nothing they won’t do to get some greenbacks in their pockets.

Digia, the company who agreed to licensed Qt from Nokia back in 2011, has just taken full custody of the red-headed stepchild project. That is, they’re going to acquire all Qt software technologies AND Qt business from both what Nokia was working on, and what Trolltech was doing. While Nokia had great dreams for the cross-platform UI framework, they never really managed to actually make a dent in the mobile platform race with Qt. They agreed to leave KDE alone, and in the event that everything hit the fan, they could essentially be ousted and KDE could release Qt under the BSD license. This agreement holds true with Digia, as they stated in a news post;

We also are committed to continuing the special relationship Qt has with the KDE community via the KDE Free Qt Foundation. We believe that this symbiosis is valuable for everyone involved.

Digia plans to release Qt for iOS, Android, and Windows 8, on the double. Nokia has lagged around with Qt long enough and it’s nice to see that Digia is looking towards the future. Hopefully they can get to work with the Jolla Mobile folk and hit the ground running.

 

Vringo has also been in talks with Nokia, but this is for the purchase of over 500 patents and patent applications. If you’ve never heard of Vringo, they describe themselves as “engaged in the innovation, development and monetization of mobile technologies and intellectual property.”. If you HAVE heard of Vringo, it’s likely because either you, or somebody you know, was dumb enough to subscribe to their premium video ringtone service. A fool and his money are soon parted.

It’s quite clear that Vringo is acting as a middleman for patent usage royalties, and possible upcoming patent infringement lawsuits. Apple and Samsung can’t have all the fun, can they? It’s said the patents are worth roughly $22 million, and Vringo sold off $31 million worth of their stock in order to pay Nokia.

Hopefully Nokia has plan which consists of more than “sell it all off, let Microsoft lead the way”. Even making the first Windows Phone 8 device likely won’t save them if the asset auction continues and the board is blinded by the incoming cash flux, not realizing they are losing their roots.

Source: Digia, Vringo

Microsoft Adds Coby and Aluratek to Patent Licensing List

Microsoft Adds Coby and Aluratek To Patent Licensing List

Microsoft is currently receiving royalties from almost all major Android tablet manufacturers including Samsung, Buffalo and HTC. You may remember that Barnes and Noble talked their way out of this deal when they turned their Nook spinoff into a Microsoft/Barnes and Noble joint venture. However, two lower end tablet makers who go by the name ‘Coby’ and ‘Aluratek’ have also been able to get by this for a little bit. Unfortunately for them, this all changed today when these companies were both added to Microsoft’s patent licensing list and must pay Microsoft a percentage of each tablet they sell. Microsoft is currently collecting these royalties from all Chrome OS and Android devices as they violate a publicly-unspecified patent. This makes the Android platform increasingly risky for startups looking to develop tablets of their own.

If you’re unaware, Coby is a low-end electronics company who is known for their very low-priced tablets. They also make economical HDTVs, CD Players and headphones. Aluratek also makes low-end Android devices such as tablets, netbooks and eReaders.

Source: ZDnet
Image Source: HighTechDad

Googorla One Step Closer To Reality!

Back in August last year, Google announced that it would be buying Motorola for $12.5 billion in cash. The news surprised nearly everyone in the tech industry, and no one really saw it coming. After all, why would a search, advertising and a mobile OS giant like Google buy a hardware company like Motorola? Is Google going to finally enter the mobile phone hardware business?

Over the next few weeks, Google cleared most of the confusion and stated that it will be running Motorola totally as a separate business entity. The company also clearly stated that it won’t be favoring Motorola or any other company, when it comes to choosing  a company to manufacture its Nexus handset. However, the deal had to clear three major hurdles – approval from the EU, the U.S. and the Chinese anti-trusts – before Google could fully own Motorola.

Yesterday, the deal reached two steps closer to its goal as both the E.U and the U.S anti-trusts gave the deal a green signal. Once, and if the Chinese anti-trusts give the Google-Motorola deal a greens signal, Google will fully own Motorola Mobility.

Hopefully, this deal between the two companies will lead to a betterment of Android as an OS, and Motorola as a handset manufacturer.

(Source)

 

After Motorola’s Win, Apple Fights Back with Photo Gallery Patent

After Motorola’s recent victory against Apple in Germany, Apple seems to be fighting back with a fresh set of patents. The Munich Regional Court in Germany held hearings on lawsuits by Apple against Motorola. According to Florian Mueller, Apple is very likely to win an injunction against Motorola products which implement a certain method for flipping pages in a photo gallery, specified by the patent in question – EP2059868.

“The court doesn’t have much doubt about the validity of this patent and appears rather convinced (at the end of the hearing even more so than at its outset) that the Android photo gallery constitutes a violation of that patent at least in its “zoom in” mode and possibly (though this is not yet certain) in its “zoom out” mode.”

Motorola may have to omit that feature from its Android devices, should the court rule against it. However, that feature alone isn’t likely to affect sales in any major way. But if Apple starts winning a lot of these small battles, Motorola and other Android manufacturers may be forced to make significant changes to their Android devices, which could add up and mess with the overall Android user experience, compelling consumers to buy Apple’s devices.

Samsung worked around the same patent earlier, to avoid a preliminary injunction by a Dutch court, by making a few changes. Motorola will probably do the same.

Microsoft Working On Self-Cleaning Touch Screens

Ultra Violet (UV) rays have magical powers. At the right wavelength they can be used to disinfect surfaces. During a startup event in Syracuse, I saw a demo of the concept being used to cleanse door handles. It seemed cool and somehow I forgot about it till I came across a patent application filed by Microsoft.

If you thought finger smudges were the only issue when it came to touch screen computers, there is the cleanliness aspect as well. Knowing people who would spend 20 minutes wiping the keyboard and mouse in my school’s computer lab, I believe there are people who would love to have self-cleaning touch screen devices. Then there are hospitals and public systems like the automated teller machines. Microsoft’s patent application uses UV rays to sterilize the touch screens.

UV rays at a particular frequency can kill germs and the concept is known as Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation  (UVGI). Quoting parts of the Wikipedia article on the topic:

 UVGI is a highly effective method of destroying microorganisms.  It is used in a variety of applications, such as food, air and water purification.  UVGI utilises the short wavelength of UV that is harmful to microorganisms. It is effective in destroying the  nucleic acids  in these organisms so that their  DNA  is disrupted by the UV radiation. This removes their reproductive capabilities and kills them.

According to the patent  application, the concept is fairly simple. In addition to the backlight LEDs, the devices will now have UV LEDs too. The system will make use of proximity sensors to determine if a user is close to the system and deactivate the sterilization process. If not, the UV rays would be activated. The idea is simple and from the demo I saw on the concept, public touch screen based computing systems should use it. Image from the patent:

If Microsoft plans to let its OEM partners leverage Microsoft’s IP to make such self-cleaning tablet devices for hospitals, it’d be a great USP over the iPad and get Windows 8 based tablets through the door in enterprise.

Patent Application

Samsung Loses Dutch Patent Battle Against Apple

Samsung and Apple have been involved in patent battles spread across multiple countries for months now. However, it seems very likely that Apple is going to win the war.

Apple recently won an injunction against Samsung products in Australia, which could lead to a ban on all Android devices there in the future. It also won a similar injunction in Germany a month ago.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Today, a Dutch court announced that it won’t be granting Samsung an injunction banning Apple products in the Netherlands. The Dutch court stated that Samsung’s 3G patents were part of essential standards, and that the two companies should negotiate a licensing agreement.

Samsung has also announced its intentions to file a patent lawsuit against Apple in South Korea, its homeland. Going by the verdicts announced already, the scales seem to be tipping heavily in Apple’s favor.

Samsung recently signed a patent licensing agreement with Microsoft, agreeing to pay it a licensing fee for each Android device it sold. Google seems unable to defend any of its hardware partners against patent infringement lawsuits, despite acquiring Motorola and its famed patent portfolio.

Samsung suffered another blow in the U.S., when a Samsung lawyer failed to distinguish between a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and an Apple iPad 2 in the court. When the presiding judge held an iPad 2 and a Galaxy Tab 10.1 and asked Samsung’s lawyers to identify them, the lawyer replied that she couldn’t do it at “this distance”, which was only 10 feet. Even if Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 may be very different from the iPad 2, its lawyers pretty much suck. Either way, Samsung looks likely to lose in the U.S. too.

iOS and Android Developers Plan to Boycott Apple and Google over Lodsys and Macrosolve’s Patent Trolling

Tired of being harassed by patent trolls like Lodsys and Macrosolve, which have been suing them over basic features like in-app purchasing, some app developers on the iOS and Android platforms have let out a call encouraging other developers to rally together and boycott Google and Apple for not helping them actively.

Though Apple and Google have announced that they would be assisting developers on their platforms with these lawsuits, they haven’t been much help yet. Some developers are urging others to pull their apps down from the iOS App Store and the Android Market for 5 days starting September 30 until Apple and Google decide to help them with the lawsuits against these trolls.

Here’s the original post at DevsUnite:

Macrosolve and Lodsys

September 30, 2011 – October 4, 2011
Starting 12 AM Friday to 11:59 PM Tuesday

Apple and Google are dragging their feet to assist with the Macrosolve and Lodsys patent bullying of small businesses, entrepeneurs, and developers. Without Apple’s and Google’s assistance, the app development community is vulnerable to the strategic attacks made by these companies. Since no Union for developers exists, individual developers are defenseless to the financial and legal bullying brought on by Lodsys and Macrosolve. Small companies and developers cannot afford to invalidate the patents claims made by Macrosolve and Lodsys. In protest, we have no choice but to voice our discontent for the lack of assistance. Have we not given our 30% of the cut for a reason? Starting Friday Sept. 30, 2011 to Tuesday October 4, 2011, developers may want to consider removing their apps from the iPhone and Android Market (or other Markets) to show their support for the developers community. You may lose a few dollars out of the process, but collectively, the disruption will help bring attention to this patent crisis. So you have to decide whether to lose a few dollars vs. losing much more when Macrosolve or Lodsys decides to go after you. For those who think by keeping your app on the market will allow you more visibility on those days, it only allows Macrosolve and Lodsys to discover you more easily. Don’t be surprised if they elect to go after you. Then your worse nightmare will begin.

There will be attempts to take this posting down. Share this message via email with other developers or use the link below. http://devsunite.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/macrosolve-and-lodsys/

Should Apple and Google prevent developers from accessing their accounts,then removal of apps will begin the day they open up access again.

Personally, I think this effort will largely be a failure. There are hundreds of thousands of app developers on both platforms with more than 700,000 apps between them. Unless a lot of Top 100 apps are pulled down, there is no chance that the average user will even notice the missing apps. And even if he does, there is no guarantee that Google or Apple will do anything more than they already are.

Given how difficult it is to get into the top 100, I doubt any developer would be willing to risk his position in the list by pulling their app down for a few days. Anyways, we will keep you updated.

Dutch court awards Apple an injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy phones

A Dutch court has issued Apple a preliminary injunction that prevents the sale of Samsung’s Galaxy line of smartphones in the Netherlands. This injunction has the potential to spread across the European Union.  FOSS Patents has a copy of the official court order, and it states that the injunction will go into effect in mid-October.

The order, which was issued by the Rechtbank’s-Gravenhage (a Dutch court located in The Hauge), only applies to Samsung’s Galaxy line of smartphones, including the widely successful Galaxy S II. That means that it won’t have any effect on the sales of Samsung’s tablets.

 

This is an important injunction because Samsung’s primary European logistics hub is located in the Netherlands. That means that in order to ship these devices throughout Europe, Samsung would have to reroute its operations. That’s unlikely, however, due to Samsung Korea’s lack of infrastructure. It would be logistically impossible for Samsung to respond in a timely manner.

The injunction is specifically based on the infringement of one patent in Apple’s portfolio. That patent is regarding the way you navigate photos in a gallery app, not the touted square based app organization design. This means that this injunction could be upheld in the countries where that patent is valid across the E.U. Unfortunately for Apple, documentation shows that they have allowed this patent to lapse in many countries, meaning it may not have much hold.

This comes on the backs of a previous injunction from a German court temporarily banning the sale of the Galaxy Tab in Europe. That injunction was lifted shortly after it was issued, however. It is possible that this new court order could suffer the same fate.

Microsoft Awarded Patent On Adaptive Video Streaming. Beats Apple, Adobe To It

Multimedia streaming over the Internet has seen rapid user adoption. In the US, Netlfix overtook Comcast in subscription numbers. There are several services (other than the ones RIAA/MPAA doesn’t want you to use) that offer online streams for content. Youtube, Netflix and Hulu to name a few popular ones. Microsoft introduced Silverlight (their Flash alternative) a while back. One of the features Microsoft talked about with Silverlight was adaptive streaming. In simplest terms, it is a concept where the quality of stream automatically adjusts to your Internet connection speed—in real time. So if your Internet connection gets clogged during an ongoing stream, it will switch to a low resolution (low bitrate) version on its own.

Microsoft calls this Smooth Streaming and has a lot of technical magic in the background. Smooth Streaming has helped Microsoft clinch several live event streaming deals which in turn have resulted in Silverlight getting a considerable user base. I recently came across a patent titled Seamless switching of scalable video bitstreams. The patent claims are concepts behind Smooth Streaming. Excerpts from the claims:

A computer-implemented method executable on a processor for switching between a first bitstream and a second bitstream, wherein the second bitstream provides a higher data rate than the first bitstream, the method comprising: identifying a switching up period associated with the first and second bitstreams, the first bitstream comprising first encoded data for a plurality of frames within a video sequence […]

An apparatus suitable for encoding a first bitstream and a second bitstream, wherein the second bitstream provides a higher data rate than the first bitstream, the apparatus comprising: a memory; one or more processors; an interface, operable on the one or more processors, configurable to selectively output the first and second bitstreams; and logic operatively coupled to the interface and configured to selectively encode a plurality of frames of a video sequence […]

Given the importance of Intellectual Property as observed recently, Microsoft being awarded this patent is quite interesting. My quick not-so-in-depth searches show that neither Netflix nor Hulu have patents on online video streaming (I could be wrong though). I haven’t played a lot with Netflix but Hulu offers an option to Auto-select best quality for the bandwidth available. Although, I don’t see Microsoft going after Hulu.

As it turns out, Adobe has a similar feature called Dynamic Streaming that they use in Flash and Apple uses a similar implementation for streaming their events to iOS and OS X powered devices. According to the patent, Microsoft filed for it back in 2005.

Other than Silverlight based streaming, Microsoft offers video streams on the Xbox too. A demo of Smooth Streaming over IIS is available here.

The Patent

At Google, Left Hand Unaware Of What Right Hand’s Doing

Today morning, the anti-Microsoft and anti-patent teams joined voices in slamming Microsoft (and Apple) for strangling Android with patents. We wrote about how Google tried to take the moral high ground and ride on their high horse of (non-existent) openness into the bliss of community love.

Google’s David Drummond implied Microsoft and Apple were working together to make it difficult for OEMs to use Android using patent lawsuits as leverage. Google’s Eric Schmidt has made bold challenges  that competition is not innovating and instead using patents against Android. As it turns out, Microsoft invited Google to join them in the bid for Nortel patents and Google’s lawyer (Kent Walker) declined. Yes, they said that they didn’t want to be a part of the consortium. Now, with that in mind, a long blog post, slamming Microsoft and Apple with the title “When patents attack” seems rather intriguing. Why would you first say that you don’t want to be a part of the team and then accuse the team of not playing fair? They asked you to join, you declined, your loss.

What makes this saga interesting is that the anti-Microsoft feeling was quite evident. Tech reporters pointed their guns at Microsoft calling them evil when in fact Microsoft presented Google with an olive branch that Google arrogantly declined. And in attempt to score brownie points ended up making a PR blunder by presenting skewed version of the story.

Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith remarked on Twitter:

brad-smith

Microsoft’s corporate communications lead shared with the Internet the screenshot of Kent Walker’s (Google Attorney) email:

kent walker

GmailMan no deliver mail, Google?