The Vista Of RSS
Poor Microsoft. It seems that most of the world secretly hates them and it takes little for that world to heap stuff on them. But sometimes they simply just ask for it. Microsoft Vista is now available as a download on Microsoft's web site and various professional groups have been offering the product at major discounts for a couple of months. But just as surely as a Microsoft product is released you can be sure that it is followed by reports of vulnerabilities. Whether these first weaknesses are significant, or not, there will surely be more. None of us who has some understanding of the progress of a major engineering project will believe that the pieces will always come together cleanly -- however well you think you have designed and specified the interface requirements and limitations. With software, with all the variables that individuals can apply to solutions, it would be almost impossible for a single person -- or group -- to see holes. It would seem, yet again, that Internet Explorer -- now version 7 -- is the conduit to get into everything in the operating system.
Fortunately it looks like the era of the OS is coming to an end. It may be through products such as the BluOnyx from Agere Mobile Content Server, reviewed here in connectivityZONE by Lee Goldberg at its release just before Christmas 2006. If Agere cannot get market traction -- and in my opinion they haven't gotten into the fray with enough enthusiasm, partners and working systems to hit CES in just a week's time -- somebody else will come along with something similar, but different. And this is only the first step to sterilizing OSs.
I look forward to an era sans-Windows and, obviously, most of us will avoid Vista for as long as we can. It may delay some PC purchases at analogZONE that have been in planning, but that's life. IE will, of course, continue to be a product that we will not avoid using on any online PC. If there are web sites that cannot be entered because they are tuned only for IE, then they will remain unvisited.
But Microsoft's continuing misery over continuing software vulnerabilities was added to by the news that the US Patent Office had granted the company patents concerning RSS (Really Simple Syndication). The company insists that they make no claim to inventing RSS, only in improving the technology. The two main inventors of RSS -- Nick Bradbury and Dave Winer -- were perhaps naive in not patenting the technology, assuming that an Open Source use would be sufficient protection; but legal interpretation of patent law is that Open Source uses are not patentable.
Unfortunately, there are others who are quite happy to take technologies and claim them as their own. In fact the patents describe Microsoft's position as being improvements on "your technology."
It strongly appears that the apparently underqualified examiners in the Patent Office have been fooled, yet again, by the technology issues presented to them. Microsoft filed the patent applications three days before (in June 2005) they announced that IE7, and the new OS we now know as Vista, would both support RSS. Microsoft's statement that the filing was protection against the unscrupulous rings thin, really thin.
Microsoft can now only clear the air by making an unequivocal statement that the company never intends, never, to make any kind of charge for the use of RSS in any form. Will we get it? What do you think?