Behind the Microsoft Suit

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2003-09-29 Print this article Print
 What really led the drive to take on Microsoft with this patent? Was there a more fundamental issue? Doyle: They occupied more than 95 percent of the market for this technology, and, therefore, its impossible for anyone to compete. … Without a software patent, small players have little chance to compete with a company that has the kind of market dominance and market power that a Microsoft has. Did you expect that people would be this concerned about the impact on them—Web developers in particular?
Doyle: This impact issue is purely a result of Microsofts decision to refuse to pay the royalties required for the fair use of our technology in their products. Its totally up to them to settle this. They can settle it for a fully paid-up license, the amount of the jury verdict plus interest. So I think their statements about having to create changes that will disrupt the Internet are disingenuous. The dismay that their competitors are exhibiting should be a clue as to what their real objectives most likely are. Clearly theyre trying to solidify their control over Web technologies. Our technology opens up the browser platform to competition. Thats what the intention was all along from the very beginning. It turns the browser into a platform that others can build upon without having to have the browser manufacturer redesign the browser each time someone wants to add something to the platform. It opened up a whole new field of competition, and Microsoft now appears to be trying to close down that field of competition. Youre saying it would open up [competition] because the actual technology for embedded objects to call out other applications would be in the control of individuals companies rather than the browser itself? Doyle: Thats right. The technology as it exists today allows third-party companies to create applications that run on a browser platform without having to have a new version of the browser created each time that happens. And when Microsoft is now proposing to build in technologies into the browser itself supposedly to avoid paying royalties, [it] creates a certain small group of technologies that are suddenly anointed by Microsoft to be the standards that get forced upon their end users. The intent from the very beginning of our technology allowed the browser to act as a platform in the same way that an operating system acts as a platform in developing applications. Each time someone builds a new Windows application, you dont have to redesign Windows. Imagine if there was only one Word processor that could run under Windows; what would that do to the various open-source projects? If Im a Web developer … why would I only be able to run an application if the browser itself has to be updated each time? Doyle: For example, lets say you have your preferred file format. Lets say its an MPEG-4 movie, and you create MPEG-4 movies and content that runs in that form. If Microsoft builds into the browser itself a handler for MPEG-4 movies, then youre stuck with Windows Media Player. Today, you have the choice. ... Our technology was intended to empower the Web page author—to control to the maximum extent possible the interactive experience of the user. What Microsoft appears to be proposing … is to build all this stuff into one monolithic browser. One consequence of this is it removes control from the Web page author. … Part of the idea was with our technology, you could add any kind of file-format capability to a browser without having to have the cooperation of the browser maker. (Editors note: Microsoft officials have not provided details on any changes to Internet Explorer, but have said that if any are made they will be minor and have a minimal impact on users. Officials have said the company should have details about any changes within the next month or so.) Next page: How much will Eolas license cost?

Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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