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Woz Fears Stifling of Startups Due to Patent Wars 300

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the innovation-is-verboten dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says that Apple and other tech companies' patent hoarding could prevent entrepreneurs doing the same thing that he and Steve Jobs did in starting a computer company in a garage. Woz also says the jury is still out on Tim Cook as the right CEO to lead Apple forward after Steve Jobs." He still gives Apple a bit of a break: "'Apple is the good guy on the block of all of them,' he says. 'It is creating so much and is so successful and it is not just following the formulas of other companies – [Apple is] totally establishing new markets that didn't exist.'"
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Woz Fears Stifling of Startups Due to Patent Wars

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  • Yep (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @12:24AM (#39627173)

    I'm trying to do the indie developer thing and I know that after these years of working full-time on a product with an upcoming initial release, the biggest threat to me isn't product failure but a frivolous patent suit burying me and likely making me give up the results of all the thousands of hours I've invested. I still plan on releasing this particular product, but the extensions and off-shoots I'll write for it will either stay private (and I'll make my money in a completely different field) or I'll end up moving to another country without software patents. It's shitty that the U.S. patent system is basically set up to force non-rich people to work for others (and thus have some indemnity), or pair up with lawyers to become pure patent trolls. In my worse moments, I've considered the latter as a sort of "this is what you've turned me into!" revenge fantasy.

  • Possibly (Score:2, Interesting)

    by koan (80826) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @12:34AM (#39627223)

    When it comes to patents stifling competition is, at the minimum, part of the equation, I wonder what would happen with no patents at all, the ultimate form of competition?

  • by Skapare (16644) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @12:35AM (#39627227) Homepage

    As long as we have a patent system that blindly issues a patent to damn near anything applied for, even though there's no real innovation involved ... e.g. stuff that the best engineers/programmers in their field could do without much effort if given a task that needs it, then we'll be having these wars. Patents need to be limited to the kinds of innovation that that we simply would not have if the applicant had not figured it out or spent the extensive effort and cost to come up with it.

    Fundamentally, patents are themselves a government sanction theft of intellectual property from those that invent it, just because they didn't invent it first. Only because we can't know whether someone did invent it, or did steal it, do we justify a patent (which is really nothing more than government sanctioned exclusivity). But our patent office is not working to filter genuine innovation from trivia ideas. A few years ago I scanned over some random patents, selecting those in areas I happened to know, and found that the vast majority were easily doable, and not innovation. The ratio was around 500 (junk) to 1 (innovation). This was one sampling, so that can be off. I only used higher numbers spanning about the last 5 years at that time.

    So it's not really the corporations doing this. They have to react this way under such a system, or end up being a loser. This is why we need an epic-major overhaul of the patent system itself, and not some minor tweaks that politicians have paid lip service to.

    I have written more detail about this recently here [wordpress.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @12:37AM (#39627243)

    Woz has long been the guy that people like us listen to, while the rest of the world worshiped at the altar of Jobs.

    Not surprisingly, everyone else went with the cut-throat, they're all trying to get in my kool aid, kill them with our IP... no-matter-how ridiculous, business guy with a, "I'm going to annihilate them if it's the last thing I do" attitude.

  • Re:What break? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ccguy (1116865) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @01:25AM (#39627489) Homepage

    Like my brand new Galaxy Nexus for example had a glitch where the sound would randomly go up and down,

    I wrote about this in my amazon.co.uk review, was instantly voted "not useful" by a lot of people. Other reviews mentioning shininess are of course "most useful".
    Don't know if it's a legion of astroturfers, fanboys, or just other buyers who have a hard time admitting they made a bad purchase.

  • by Lisias (447563) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @01:37AM (#39627543) Homepage Journal

    He still gives Apple a bit of a break: "Apple is the good guy on the block of all of them,”

    And I would do the same.

    I'm not stupid to bash and kill my own cash cow.

    Anyway, I always liestened to what this guy said all these years.

    He is a good engineer, but not just it: he likes and encourages good technology no matters from who.

  • Re:What break? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bemymonkey (1244086) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @01:46AM (#39627581)

    Or, on the PC/Laptop side, the systems are simply more reliable than a typical OOTB Windows 7 or Linux (my basis for comparison is Ubuntu) install. If you're unlucky (this depends highly on which vendor(s) you buy your hardware from, and the quality of the drivers they provide), you'll still run into the occasional bluescreen or things that simply break and require a reboot (yes, even on Ubuntu :p)...

    Just in the last two years of Windows 7 use, I've seen a few bluescreens with EMU audio hardware, Realtek laptop NICs, and even a virtual network driver (AVM's Fritz!VPN application - that was a particularly nasty one, because the machine would hang on standby and then only bluescreen about half an hour later... very difficult to troubleshoot). Oh and don't even get me started on Intel's crappy video drivers... bug-infested crap (if it weren't for the higher power consumption and heat I'd switch to a laptop with discrete graphics just for the better drivers).

    As far as I know (since I'm more or less a pure Windows user - can't get used to OSX for the life of me, nor do I want to - hell, maybe it's just a "grass is greener" thing), these are problems that more or less don't exist in the Mac camp... I keep hearing from musicians how they've never had a crash with their MacBook - our keyboarder, who uses his Windows 7 laptop as a soundbank on stage, actually had a bluescreen during a gig a few months ago. :(

  • Re:What break? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pieroxy (222434) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @04:11AM (#39628109) Homepage

    If you really waste your time writing reviews for Amazon for free, you've got nothing to do here pal. These things are nests of armies of paid-for "moms" and "dads" writing nice things for the products they're paid to write nice things for. Any second spent trying to "crowd-source" those reviews is a second of your life that you'll never recover. And it will benefit no one, except those reviews farms.

    I know, I work for a big e-commerce website.

  • Re:What break? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CAIMLAS (41445) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @04:15AM (#39628123) Homepage

    Asus has been making superior hardware which Apple can only envy for at least several years now. Look at their Zenbook: it's basically a punch in Apple's face, being faster, lighter, thinner, and having better battery life than the Macbook Air - all while having a larger display (11-14" I think) and starting at about $950.

    As for "nobody else does it": Apple hasn't done much which really stands out when compared objectively, it's only with the loud cloud of Sales and Marketing that anything they make seems like it's something. Ape Store? iTunes SaaS and software distribution channels weren't anything new then, either. Off the top of my head:

    Pkgsrc and BSD Ports have been around for some time - mid 1990s, I imagine. Debian's APT has been around since 1998. I remember using it in a modified form for my Zaurus, via a GUI installer, in 2001. Granted, iTunes came about in 2001. It was several years behind Napster, offering music with a price tag and a brand name. Steam has been around since 2003 and was installed on pretty much every gamer's PC, and offered much more of a comprehensive unified store than App Store did at first. The App Store didn't debut until 2008. It basically does the same things as all the above do, but with more of an Amazon.com-meets-Walmart feel: a large inventory but you pay by the byte, with dollar ringtones, discount movies, and cheap shareware bins.

    Apple is by no means a leader here. They're an integrator with strong marketing/sales proclivities. That leads to broken promises, people believing lies, and people accepting less due to false expectations.

  • Re:What break? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by silentcoder (1241496) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @05:18AM (#39628339) Homepage

    That's the problem with patents of course, a fundamentally wrong belief that innovation happens in isolation and is done by any one person/entity.

    Here's a little story. Around mid-2005 I was working on what would become the openlab 4.0 release. Under pressure from my paying customers I had to find a way to build the most robust and easy to deploy thin-client network-computer server with easy-to-use desktop Linux possible.

    At the time Linux came in installable-disk and live-CD versions - and ne'er the twine did meet. Ubuntu indeed had promo packs for their first release (came out about a month before OL4 was released) with TWO CD's in - one live, one installable.

    Then I had a flash of brilliance. What if a live CD could replicate itself onto a hard-drive, you would have a faster, more reliable and more predictable way to install linux, with much more ease of use on top of all the other live CD advantages.

    You may notice that practically ever linux distribution in the world today works this way - an instalable live CD. But when I did it for OL4.0 I had never seen such a thing before.
    Apparently I invented the modern Linux distribution - because a year later every other distribution had followed suit.
    But OpenLab was a fairly niche system - aimed at education and mostly deployed in schools, it had very little impact outside that sphere.
    By the end of that year I saw PCLinuxOS for the first time -and they were the second system I ever saw using this mechanism. The thing is... they may have actually done it before I did.

    I have no idea which project did it first, mine or theirs. I have no idea which one was then first copied by a major distro (of 2005) and laid the groundwork for everybody else following suit (odds may well be on them but it's hardly proven).

    Point is that a major innovation in Linux distributions was achieved practically simultaneously by two disparate projects neither of whom was aware of the other's work. The same thing happens with all innovation - ever. It's always just the next logical step in the progression and there are always several people who have it.

    I'm proud of having been a first person to do something that is now standard fair. But I don't think I ever deserved the right to patent the idea or charge for the concept - if only because somebody else was doing the exact same thing at about the exact same time without us knowing about each other's existence yet.
    Innovation ? Encouraging innovation ? Stupid concepts.
    Innovation is an unavoidable consequence of the state of history at any given moment. It cannot be encouraged or indeed inhibited, the only thing stuff like patents can achieve is to make the results more expensive and cause them to take longer to reach the market penetration they deserve.

Do not simplify the design of a program if a way can be found to make it complex and wonderful.

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