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[Patents] Microsoft Patents Portable Applications

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digitxp
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[Patents] Microsoft Patents Portable Applications

Network World On Tuesday, Microsoft was awarded a U.S. patent for "portable applications." The description of this innovative technology? Running an executable file from a flash device.

Does this mean anything to PortableApps.com over here? It mentions “portable applications that can be executed from a portable memory device (such as a USB flash drive) without impacting the configuration of the computer,” but also “can run an application on an attached computer solely from the flash drive.”

What's going on?

Simeon
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Haha

The first comment there says it all:

"So now that these guys (https://portableapps.com/) have done all the work, M$ gets a patent? Nice one."

You gotta be kidding...What were they thinking granting that patent? What's so special about this? Does Microsoft think that helps them with creating a U3-successor???
Looks like it: "...herein activation binds the application uniquely to the portable storage device through use of an identifier identifying the portable storage device..."

I really hope there is an explanation for this. April 1st was about one month ago Smile

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Chris Morgan
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Ooohhh dear. That patent for

Ooohhh dear. That patent for "portable applications" (full text) is just so utterly ridiculous that I find it difficult to believe it really was approved this week.

It seems to me that they're trying to patent Angel portable applications, (b) selecting and installing drivers for USB devices, (c) autorun of Angel (which they've since thrown away).

I don't think that there's even the slightest chance that this patent would survive an appeal to the patent office if Microsoft tried to sue someone for it. As that article says, only about a quarter do, and this one is just ridiculous for being approved now (rather than the end of 2004 when it was filed).

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NathanJ79
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Stupid

First, Microsoft didn't invent application portability, they broke it with the Registry. Programs were portable long before Windows 95 and other OS's continued to have portable applications that were "installed" just by an automated process by which files were moved from one media (e.g. CD) to another (e.g. hard drive).

Whether U3, which SanDisk owns and Microsoft may be trying to use this patent to protect, or John Haller's work came first is a tricky situation. We know John made Portable Firefox before U3 and then worked with U3, but if SanDisk got their legal ducks in a row first... well, it could mean trouble.

Still, I do not think this will hold up. Although:

digitxpDoes this mean anything to PortableApps.com over here?

What it means is that if Microsoft can enforce this patent, flash drive manufacturers would be prohibited from selling flash drives running the PortableApps.com Platform. I'm not a lawyer, but that's pretty clear. I do not think it affects the rest of us, though.

Chris Morgan
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Doesn't affect us

I'd say that it shouldn't affect us at all. Considering all the history available, I would expect that the patent is unenforceable; the history of people making and using portable applications goes, I think, back to before the patent application, and most definitely to before it was granted. What's more the patent applies to things which are, if you will pardon the pun (or for that matter even if you won't pardon the pun), patently obvious, some of which have been implemented in other operating systems too (the autorun stuff)... which they've since disabled in their own operating system due to lack of security.

It's a nonsense patent that is ridiculous and should not be enforceable.

I don't know what happens in case of an appeal... is the patent revoked or what?

I think Microsoft is either going to Angel cop a lot of flak about this (in the right circles, anyway) or (b) withdraw the patent.

I am a Christian and a developer and moderator here.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1

NathanJ79
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At all?

Chris MorganI'd say that it shouldn't affect us at all.

Not at all? Well, us maybe. Developers maybe. But John, trying to get deals with flash drive manufacturers? It's going to be a lot harder for him now that Microsoft holds a patent. Before, I would assume the biggest hurdle would be risk. That is, why would a flash drive manufacturer pay John to bundle his portable app suite with their drives (I assume royalties, some per-drive scheme) when those apps are freely available to anyone with a flash drive. Now the biggest risk by far is Microsoft enforcing that patent.

I told my wife about this, on the phone, at first as a joke (stupid thing that Microsoft did) but I found I was a little angry about it. I mean, they cleaned up their Vista mess with Win7, the Xbox 360 is better than ever, Internet Explorer 9 is shaping up to be real special... and then they go and pull this. I don't know. It's a d___ move, plain and simple.

On the other hand, I'm curious to see what they do with it. There's a line in the patent about tying a portable application to the individual drive somehow, obviously some kind of copy protection. Windows 7 supports installation from a flash drive (legally, though illegal uses have sprung up) and it only makes sense at this point for Microsoft to do something with U3. But, of course, I was hoping that if they did, it would be something that played nice with PortableApps. I wouldn't expect them to use PAF, but if I liked Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer, for instance, and I could get them on my drive with the PortableApps programs, especially if stuff showed up in each menu, or there was some measure of compatibility (who wants two menus?)... but they'll probably work with SanDisk to make some kind of protected flash drives that can't be copied.

You know, I brought this up a month or two ago, about the Xbox 360 update. Could this be related? Sure, they're not going to run portable apps on the Xbox -- that makes no sense -- but they did enable flash drives to be formatted, a partition of up to 16GB for Xbox use. This suggests some interesting possibilities. I can already put mp3 and wma files on a flash drive and play them on the 360, but it's very basic support. Maybe if you plug in a special SanDisk drive with Windows Media Player, you actually get Windows Media Player on the Xbox. Or how about Internet Explorer? The 360 has no web browser. Even the Wii has a web browser. If Microsoft told 360 owners they could get a browser, if they buy this new U3 thing, they could run IE on their PC, save their bookmarks, and run IE on the 360 -- that would sell like hotcakes. A web browser on the 360 is like categories in PortableApps -- it's gonna get asked for every week and the regulars are going to always answer as to when it's gonna happen -- when it happens. Heck, as much time as my wife spends on the computer, I might even have to buy one.

Ed_P
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[Interesting] Very interesting!!

You gotta be kidding...What were they thinking granting that patent?

The only thought the patent office is interested in is "Has anyone patented this before". And if no one has then the patent is granted.

Whether U3, which SanDisk owns

SanDisk sold the U3 process to Microsoft 2 or 3 years ago.

I'd say that it shouldn't affect us at all.

Stuff done before the patent should not be affected, but stuff going forward will be. John may have to pay royalities on the PA menu system, developers may have to pay royalities on new apps they develop and new apps may have to conform to the patent's methology.

Changes are definitely in the wind.

And, and this is the best part, MS's stock may go up, so invest now and reap the profits.

Ed

Benedikt93
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Read carefully

I think they do not mean all portable applications, but a special technology they want to put into Windows. This on would then read some configuration file on the USB drive which tells Windows what to do to make it portable instead of a launcher for each app.
I didn't read much of the patent, but IIRC, this would be like an additional registry file to be loaded to memory temorarily ( not those .reg files but those which include the acutual registry).

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richo
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RE: Read Carefully

I agree. The patent should only really apply to any portable application that uses the exact method specified in the patent document. If a portable application uses a completely different method, then any claims stating that the portable application in question violates (or however your supposed to put it) the patent, should be dismissed. Please feel free to correct me where I am (possibly) wrong.

crux
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Don't believe what Microsoft says.

Bill Gates is not a king. Even if MS is talking about only a specific method, it won't make anything you program "illegal."

Some people are "following the law" at a pathologically obsessive level. They should know that "the law" is not what some company publishes. It's like when you see signs that say "We shall under no circumstances be responsible for blah blah blah." Those kinds of things aren't up to people who write signs, or press releases, or patent applications.

NathanJ79
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Right and wrong

You're right, and wrong at the same time.

You're right about signs such as those you mentioned, but some signs are enforceable, e.g. if they say "by proceeding beyond this point you agree...". That's how EULAs work. What they say may not be a federal or state law, but by proceeding beyond a point you enter into a contract of sorts. These are not always enforceable, EULAs more so than posted signs, but they can be enforced.

Patents are very legal and very enforceable. However, if Mr. Haller challenges it, gets a reasonably competent patent lawyer, they should be able to blow some decent holes in the patent, or get it transferred here. Since he's been making portable applications long before Microsoft (never mind that applications were portable to start with before Windows 95), and Microsoft doesn't even do portable applications at this point, it's pretty clear that they're patent squatting, or whatever that's called. They're clearly patenting his work, and obviously the patent office was not aware of this fact. Even if Microsoft brings U3 into it on their side (as they own it now), Mr. Haller's work predates U3, so that's no help.

Oh, I wrote Ars Technica about this mess, after checking their archives for any mention of it and finding nothing. I've asked around on their forums if anyone else does portable apps (or PortableApps) and there's very little interest, but they do cover Microsoft news as well as open source news, and I'm sure they'd love to do a story about Microsoft doing some bad deeds with patents. I don't know. It was a couple days ago. I'll let y'all know if they write it up, or contact me about it.

crux
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It depends.

The point is, consult independent parties for legal advice. Don't ask Microsoft if they are acting legally or for their opinion as to what you must do in order to be within the law. The reason, of course, is because they have something to gain from misleading you.

Darkbee
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Shot in the Dark

I think everybody is reading way too much into this. Without having even read the article I can say with some degree of certainty that I doubt Microsoft has patented breathing oxygen. Even they are not that stupid.

My guess is, that it's some sort of U3-esque attempt at providing a portable platform for commercial (and free I suppose) software, such that the software is tied to a particular flash drive. Kinda like DRM for apps. Joy of joys, no doubt people will be cracking it within 24 of public release.

It probably won't effect PA.c at all even though it could well be considered a competitor. It'll be used by people that don't know any better or people that want legal, portable versions of very specific commercial software.

That's just my guess.

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