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Innovation/Global Crisis Blog

You’ve Just Gotta Laugh!

By Shlomo Maital

  The latest issue of The Economist has three separate items that, unintentionally, bring a smile or even a belly laugh.

   Here they are.

   1.  China Eats America’s Lunch – Literally.    China has been eating America’s lunch for years.  By dominating manufacturing, China has taken away well-paying jobs from middle-class Americans, who now work at Wal-Mart for near-minimum wage.  Now, fittingly, China is LITERALLY eating America’s lunch.  A factory in rural Georgia, U.S., Georgia Chopsticks, is making 2 million chopsticks a day out of poplar and sweet-gum wood and exporting them to China.   (p. 53).  The company hopes to employ 150 people.   America is saying, eat our lunch China and…here, let us give you the tools with which to do it.

    2. Having achieved a Guinness Book of Records astronomical inflation rate, 230,000,000 per cent (that’s not a typo),  Zimbabwe ended it by abandoning its own worthless currency and adopting the dollar.  Now, Zimbabwe is worried, lest America’s irresponsible Fed print excessive amounts of money and destabilize Zimbabwe.  A Zimbabwean newspaper, Newsday, wondered on Aug. 10 whether “it was time for Zimbabwe to ditch the dollar, lest it import America’s macroeconomic recklessness.”  Pot calling the kettle black?  Well – who’s the pot anyway?  Can America learn fiscal and monetary responsibility from Zimbabwe?  Apparently, yes.  (p. 57).   

   3.  A special police unit in Stockholm Sweden handles protests in a unique way.  They have no weapons, no water cannons, no tear gas.  They are known as Dialogue Police.  They engage in philosophic dialogue with protesters, discussing the Manichean Ethic,  relativist morality, deontological intuitionism and utilitarianism.  My hunch is, they lull protesters to sleep.  (P. 45). This has huge possibilities. How about Lullaby Police, who sing protesters to sleep?  How about Economist Police, who teach segments of Econ 101, guaranteed to anesthetize an elephant?    

    Global crisis?  That’s a laugh.


Innovation/Global Crisis Blog

Patent Wars: Do Patents Strangle Innovation?  Or Foster It?

The Case of Android

By Shlomo Maital


What is “Android?” ?

  (based on wiki):  Android is a mobile operating system for mobile devices such as mobile telephones and tablet computers developed by Google and the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of 80 hardware, software, and telecommunication companies devoted to advancing open standards for mobile devices.   Google released most of the Android code under the Apache License, a free software license.   Android consists of a mobile operating system based on the Linux kernel, with middleware, libraries and APIs written in C and application software running on an application framework which includes Java-compatible libraries based on Apache Harmony.    Android has a large community of developers writing applications (“apps”) that extend the functionality of the devices. Developers write primarily in Java.  There are currently more than 250,000 apps available for Android. Android Market is the online app store run by Google, though apps can also be downloaded from third-party sites. Android is now  the best-selling smartphone platform worldwide. 

   Who are Android’s competitors? 

   Apple, Microsoft and Blackberry.  Microsoft, as always, never missses an opportunity to miss an opportunity, but then uses its money and muscle to kill competitors.  Nokia’s Symbian is being euthanized.  (See diagram). 

Which is best?

The blog “Andgeeks” cites a Wall St. Journal report:  “Last week, the Wall Street Journal asked its readers which was the best mobile operating system. Grabbing 6,365 vote sample,  …Android came away not only with a lead, but with the majority of the votes. Apple, of course, finished second, while BlackBerry sat in third place.”

   And what are Android’s competitors doing to fight back?  Competing fairly? Or trying to squeeze Google through massive purchases of patents?

     From press reports:  “Google announced Monday that it will acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in order to “supercharge” its Android mobile operating system and build up its patent portfolio.  “Android was born as an open platform,” Rubin continued. “It doesn’t make sense for it to be a single OEM. We want to go as wide as possible and all our partners make it what it is today.”

    Perhaps more important to Google’s bottom line will be the acquisition of Motorola Mobility’s patent portfolio. “Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies,” Page wrote.   Sanjay Jha, CEO of Motorola Mobility, said the company has over 17,000 issued patents worldwide, in addition to 7,500 patent applications awaiting approval.

   Earlier this month, Google accused Apple, Microsoft, and other tech giants of trying to “strangle” Android with its coordinated patent purchases and pledged to “intensely” defend its mobile OS through patent purchases of its own and opposition to what it considers anti-competitive patent bids.

    Last month, a consortium of tech rivals purchased 6,000 wireless technology patents held by Nortel, which Google had said it wanted to buy. Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Research in Motion, and Sony joined forces to purchase the patents, which cover wireless, wireless  4G, data networking, optical, voice, Internet, service provider,  semiconductors, and other patent portfolios. Microsoft and Apple also teamed up to purchase patents from Novell, along with Oracle and EMC.”

    Comment:    Confused? So am I.  Google is pushing an “open system”.  Great.  It is defending its open Linux-based system by leveraging Motorola’s 17,000 patents (and 7,500 patents pending), i.e. using a monopoly right to foster ‘competition’.  Google’s rivals, in turn, are trying to marginalize Android by assembling their own patent monopoly, with Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, RIM (Blackberry), and Sony joining forces. (Hello, America’s anti-trust regulators?  Is anyone home?  Is monopoly created by patents any different from monopoly created by predatory pricing or price collusion??).    

     It is time to rethink patents.  Patents grant a monopoly to the inventor.  When a million inventors come up with a million patented inventions, one can believe the system works. But when huge companies join together to buy thousands of patents, in order to block a rival, this is beyond doubt “restraint of trade”, and illegal.  

     Google may be slightly morally superior to Apple, Microsoft, Sony and RIM, but not by much.  

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
August 2011
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