In what comes as a giant surprise to no one, the judge in the RIM/NTP case didn’t hand either side a win. He refused to order an injunction or set a value on damages, but also said he would do both if they didn’t come to a settlement soon. This gives some of the lost leverage back to NTP … based on this, let’s bump the settlement estimate to $800 million. Look for it to happen within a month now.
Archive for Crackberries
A couple of people dropped me notes to point out that “smoke and mirrors” is at least better than the “cone of silence” and RIM should get some props for at least saying something yesterday, even if the press release and the attendant “overview” docs were mutually contradictory.
Point taken – at least they appeared to make an effort.
On the other hand, the reasons behind the release are probably more mercenary than you think. There are two driving forces behind yesterday’s “disclosure” … one obvious, one not so much.
First and foremost, this was an obvious attempt to head off a sudden rash of defections to competing platforms. I had a chance to talk with my wireless rep yesterday (more on this in a bit) and he candidly said that a “startling” number of current BlackBerry users are eating the hardware replacement penalties to move to alternative devices. Mostly Treos, with a smattering of PocketPCs here and there. Yesterday’s announcement, which got repeated verbatim and without analysis in a lot of mainstream media outlets, would probably do a lot to stem that particular tide.
The less-obvious second and – from RIM’s standpoint – more important reason behind yesterday’s announcement was to give themselves some positive negotiating pressure when they do eventually settle with NTP. Don’t be fooled by the announcements that this patent or that patent is being seen as invalid by the USPTO – even if all of the patents do get tossed aside under pressure from the U.S. government, there are still appeals processes both within the patent office (via technical review and litigation boards) and in the courts (starting with the Circuit Court of Appeals and working from there). The only way this will go away quickly enough to suit RIM’s needs is by settlement. Last week I would have estimated a billion dollars (U.S.) will be the final amount. After taking a full night to mull over and assess this latest volley, however, I would be willing to bet that they settle for as little as $750 million dollars. Well played, RIM, well played indeed.
Technical note: My wireless rep chatted for a bit about their testing of the MME workaround. Virtually every big wireless provider is testing the new mode even as we speak, and the results so far are intriguing. Right now your email tends to hit the BlackBerry server (be in an Enterprise box or the web client) and the handheld at the same time, and then dribble into your “traditional” email server and associated client a few moments after that. WIth the MME workaround in place, the mail hits the BlackBerry server, then finds your traditional email server and client either at the same time as or before the message gets to your handheld. This means that there is definitely a noticeable delay – enough that I would guess that RIM will have to mention it at some point, probably couched in terms like “a few seconds longer than you may be used to”. That said, you can bet that RIM will start to shave this down and try and dance right on the legal edge of the patent, balancing delay with visible compliance to whatever deal they strike.
More obfuscation from RIM this morning. The “feel-good” press release tells anxious users that there will be no change in the way that they use their BlackBerry, but the rather vague details in the Multi-Mode “overview” document appear to immediately contradict this.
Whatever. They gotta do what they think they gotta do … good luck to them. The real gem here is the link at the bottom of the Multi-Mode index page entitled “Read Jim Balsillie’s Op-Ed article titled ‘Patent Abuse’“. Take a few minutes to read it if you need some giggles … this thing is pure comedy gold.
Rounds of golf are getting longer and longer … more and more mopes out on the course means that the delay has gotten out of hand, and golfing on weekends is now a fool’s errand.
The alternative of golfing on weekdays has all sorts of appeal – lower green fees and quicker rounds go a long way in the “enjoyment” department – but there is that little caveat about taking time off work. Luckily a remote email device like a Treo or a Blackberry can smooth over this little pothole, giving the busy geek some freedom to hit the links. The downside, however, is that a dead battery can ruin your whole day … there is nowhere to recharge out on the course.
Until now. Check out this new golf bag with integrated solar panels and a built in 12 volt USB charging connector. Yeah, now that is called innovation. Bring it on!
The main focus of this article (vaguely odious L.A. Times registration required, sorry) may or may not be moot at this point, as RIM is getting ready to trumpet about getting 5 of the 7 NTP patents overturned in Washington today. There are still 2 pieces of paper to overturn, but there is no reason to think that the patent office will have any hesitation to do so – today’s action shows that they have no qualms at all about tossing aside technically valid intellectual properly. The moral: Woe be to the hapless soul whose creative rights might cause some email inconvenience senators and assorted government fart catchers.
The piece at the TImes – and big ups to Sockmonkey for the tip – is still an interesting read for two reasons, though. One, it shows that there are complete fucking Blackberry morons in the world, addicts who make the fact that I may or may not type while driving once in a while look positively amateur in comparison. The guy with two ‘berries so that he can still check mail if he loses the signal on one is really pathetic/
Two, and this is more interesting from a geek point of view, is that this is the first story to break the ice on a fact that everyone kind of realizes in their heart of hearts, but no one really talks about: The Blackberry was pretty cool at the time but it is painfully primitive now. The PIM functions of RIM’s baby are still worse than useless, it can’t thread wireless tasks which is wildly annoying if you get a lot of mail, it bites for actually working with attachments, and as a web browser, well, the less said the better. RIM has taken the basic platform as far as it can really go, with welcome (and very nice) upgrades to the form factor, the screen, and the OS … but the basic platform has probably seen it’s day. RIM may be where Apple was in 1993, clinging too long to a basic architecture that has gotten far too long in the tooth. The only salvation may be to do what Apple did back then – license the technology and the OS to some third parties and let them innovate while you retool for the next generation.
Whether the gang in Waterloo – and their legion of addicts – realizes it yet or not, this is a watershed point in time. Move forward or die – at E3 this year at least two companies will show wireless email solutions that are going to open a lot of eyes. RIM needs to be ready to bring those eyes back … and the current crop of ‘berries aren’t going to do it.
For reasons that are still not clear, the IP addresses of the blackberry.net mail servers have been added to the SpamCop blacklist. Most ISP mail from Blackberries is now being flagged as spam – people who use enterprise servers are still okay. RIM is working on the problem now, but the gang at SpamCop aren’t the quickest movers in the world … which is not the least of their public perception problems.
Coming hard on top of all the other news, this is just weird.
It has been mentioned in passing that the U.S. Patent Office is under severe pressure from well-placed Crackberry addicts in both the White House and Capitol Hill to just up and throw away the NTP patents that are at the core of the current shitstorm of legal woe. These power-brokers don’t really give a rat’s ass about intellectual property concerns here, they just don’t want their Blackberries to stop working.
This, of course, is a wildly dangerous precedent. There are other corporations – with far more political and financial clout than RIM – would love to see this particular doorway to darkness opened just a wee crack. Just enough to get their slime-covered toes into the gap and start pushing. Case in point: Our friends at Microsoft, who aren’t just fighting one case of patent misappropriation … they have an outright slew of the damn things on the go. When it comes to stealing someone else’s work, the trolls in Redmond have a long and storied tradition that makes RIM look like a bunch of pikers. The latest round of this sort of litigation is especially worrisome for them because they didn’t just have to fork over cash – which they have gobs and gobs of – but also need to issue a patch, something that doesn’t sit well with Bill G and his assorted minions because the problem becomes annoyingly public.
Over at the Globe they were kind enough to make this mostly well-considered piece available to all instead of just to Globe content subscribers, as has been their wont as of late. I want to give this one the “senate” treatment – a sober second thought – before I pass judgement on it one way or the other, but it’s nice to see some work that actually delves into the timeline … big kudos for mentioning the Glenayre suit, something that RIM is mostly trying to avoid mentioning whenever they possibly can.
And, really, anything that makes Jim Balsillie look like a buffoon is good journalism in my books.
UPDATE: The Globe’s web servers just got hammered hard by Slashdotters – as of 10 minutes ago they were apparently dead in the water. If you haven’t read the story yet, here is a cached link … praise be to Google.
The Great Blackberry Patent Saga continues to creak along, with at least another month now before any decision will be made on NTP’s proposed injunction – February 24th is next date available for the U.S. District Court to hear the motions, countermotions, and general blathering. Some people think that it will never get that far, though, because the gang at RIM have pulled out a hammer of their own – panicmongering among Crackberry addicts in the U.S Senate and House. While the NTP patents are pretty clearly valid and should probably be upheld, there is a movement afoot among congressmen to pressure the U.S Patent Office just to toss the things out and pretend that they never existed. The old watchword of “money talks” has apparently been replaced with “don’t fuck with vote-wielding email freaks as they try and seduce interns while they are supposed to be working”.