Re: Nanotech/Opensource: Opinions Needed.

From: Paul Hughes (
Date: Sun Jul 09 2000 - 22:05:02 MDT

"Robert J. Bradbury" wrote:

> On Sun, 9 Jul 2000, Paul Hughes wrote:
> > 1) As you may have heard Microsoft is trying very much to regain control
> > by putting all of their software back into their central servers.
> Could you cite a reference for this? (It sounds a bit far-fetched.)


> Perhaps you mean that they intend to move to an active license
> monitoring system for their software -- i.e. their software comes
> from their servers when you need it. This is "software on demand"
> or "software rental".

No, they're assuming that by the time their .net initiative becomes reality the
majority of people will have high-speed access to the net. The presumption is
that you will be logging onto their servers and using the programs exactly as if
you were logging onto a mainframe through a dumb terminal. They say this will be
a great advantage to the consumer, because they will be able to access their
computation from any device, network PC, PDA, cell phone, etc. In fact every
major software company is pushing this paradigm - Oracle, Apple, Sun... Remember,
"the network is the computer"?

> Nobody in their right mind will buy this option. Corporate presidents
> will not store corporate data at Microsoft unless Microsoft accepts
> liability for data loss, guarantees privacy, etc. Even Microsoft
> doesn't have pockets deep enough for that.

Perhaps, but the majority of consumers probably will when there is no clear and
easy alternative. As for companies a compromise may be reached where they retain
the data, while the software managing it will remain in Microsoft's hands.

> Yes, they could monitor you every time you start Excel or Powerpoint
> but that would require permanent connections for all PCs and we are
> a long way away from that.

Not so. Since you will be logging onto their servers, they could have logs of
everything you do while online - leaving exactly the same kind of activity log you
do when using a mainframe.

> How you extrapolate that to "full power to control what you see or do"
> isn't clear to me. You can make your data arbitrarily secure by simply
> encrypting it.

Perhaps, but the overwhelming majority of people do not how to use encryption.

> > The old idea of liberating the people by offering them desktop computers,
> > flattening hierarchies, decentralizing power will have been undone. We
> > will have returned to the old paradigm of large centralized
> > info-warehouses with the rest of us left with nothing more than dumb
> > terminals circa 1970.
> Huh? If so its going to be a big disappointment to Intel or TransMeta.

How so? Both Intel and Trasmeta stand to make a large sums of cash when the
number of people accessing the internet from handheld wireless devices exceeds
all landline access, as analysts are predicting will occur sometime next year.

> If Microsoft makes their licensing of software more restrictive people
> will simply move to other suppliers, esp. open source systems if they
> feel so inclined.

I hope you're right. I know most open-source advocates feel this new .net
initiative will do exactly just that.

> > So here is the golden question - will the creator of this
> > first assembler, weather it be Zyvex or some other company hold ALL the
> > patent and intellectual property rights to all future assemblers based
> > on their design?
> According to patent law, for ~20 years yes. The key words are "their design".

Ah yes, but as recent patent grants have shown companies are obtaining rights far
exceeding what the spirit of patent law has intended. The recent
patent scandal comes to mind. Besides, its all in the wording right?

> There seems to be an assumption that there is only 1 path to an assembler.
> That is highly doubtful.

I hope so. My fear is that the inventors of the first assembler will patent the
idea of the assembler itself, rather than their specific design. Various
microprocessors are as different from each other as night and day, yet one guy
obtained the patent rights and subsequent royalty rights on all them. Doesn't it
seem possible then for the inventors of the assembler to do the same thing?

> High tech companies make businesses out of
> figuring out ways around each others patents. Its a complex
> business decision whether to try and work around a patent or to
> pay whatever licensing fees are being demanded. If IBM wants to
> pay Zyvex $50 billion for the rights to use the assembler patents
> I doubt Zyvex is going to say no...

You're probably right, and hopefully this will happen in sufficient quantity to
create a healthy and competitive nanotech industry.

> Do you want every Tom, Dick and Harry to be able to have the ability
> to assemble bubonic plague in their basement?

They have that ability now. Less than $10,000 gets you all the equipment
necessary to create a plethora of nasty bio-weapons. One only needs the

> It is likely that a small set of companies will become leaders in
> the economy from a manufacturing perspective. They will make their
> money by imposing a small surcharge on the cost of the raw materials
> and manufacturing. (It may be a big surcharge until the competition
> gets rolling...). But the *real* money isn't in the manufacturing,
> it is in the designs.

Yes. Getting sufficient competition involved is my entire point.

Paul Hughes

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