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Microsoft Agrees To License ActiveSync To Google 133

Posted by kdawson
from the kitchen-sync dept.
JacobSteelsmith writes "Microsoft agreed today to license ActiveSync to Google. Google is using ActiveSync as part of Google Sync, which enables the synchronization of data between mobile devices and, presumably, Google Calendar and your contacts stored at Google. 'Microsoft's vice president of intellectual property and licensing, Horacio Gutierrez, said in a statement that the Google license is "a great example of Microsoft's openness to generally license our patents under fair and reasonable terms so long as licensees respect Microsoft intellectual property."'"
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Microsoft Agrees To License ActiveSync To Google

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  • by TJ_Phazerhacki (520002) on Monday February 09, 2009 @07:15PM (#26792269) Journal
    Permanent beta in 3...2...1...
  • OTOH, after AAPL licensing it, they would look stupid if they refused GOOG.
    And with this step, it *is* the de-facto standard.
    Intersting thought, that the only thing being left of MSFT in a couple of years is a protocol to sync wireless clients to a server...

    • by Rayeth (1335201)
      I don't know about hell freezing over just yet, but someone is probably keeping their eyes on the dropping thermostat. This particular story is less interesting IMO than when MS licensed ActiveSync to Apple.
      • by rainer_d (115765)

        In some ways, yes.
        But Google has a much wider audience than Apple (which is a niche, though a spacious and comfortable one by now)
        Apple, is bigger as a company, but Google is really (in more ways than I like) *the internet*.
        Ironic, that if MSFT had started opening up their protocols a couple of years earlier, they would probably be in a much better position than they are now.
        Maybe it's too little too late, maybe not.
        History (and the stock-market) will tell ;-)

        • by aaarrrgggh (9205) on Monday February 09, 2009 @08:24PM (#26792899)

          Even more at issue is the fact that Google's offering compete directly with Microsoft's server offerings. Apple was just licensing a connector component for handhelds to use MS Servers.

        • It sets a pleasant precedent. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

          By intermingling bits of software that kind of works with other bits of software that kind of works, rather than keeping everything proprietary working with buggy software that sucks and nobody likes, they've figured out that "hey, we might just profit from this".

      • by jaseuk (217780) on Monday February 09, 2009 @07:36PM (#26792485) Homepage

        Actually this is one of the missing pieces in the Google Apps puzzle. They've gained push e-mail and synching on anything that supports ActiveSync which includes Windows Mobile devices & iPhone/iPod Touch.

        Once they finish off Google gears for offline gmail, then they have pretty much fixed the problem off offline / mobile access to GMail which makes Google Apps alot more appealing.

        Most of the complaints against the use of web services is that you lose out when on the road or internet connection is down.

        It's almost the Exchange Alternative everyone has been looking for.

        Jason.

    • by sexconker (1179573) on Monday February 09, 2009 @07:42PM (#26792533)

      Do you talk in stock symbols to make yourself look smart? Or did you really not realize that using "Apple", "Google", and "MS" would have used only 1 more character than what you did, would have been much more readable, and would have made you look like far less of a tool? (And that completely ignores your effort on the shift or caps lock key.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        For the record, Microsoft often refers itself as MSFT even outside stock quotes. For example, on public Microsoft newsgroups and forums, whenever a Microsoftie replies to a thread in his official capacity (typically support guys, but devs come there to help as well), his name will be suffixed with "[MSFT]".

        • by powerlord (28156)

          For the record, Microsoft often refers itself as MSFT even outside stock quotes. For example, on public Microsoft newsgroups and forums, whenever a Microsoftie replies to a thread in his official capacity (typically support guys, but devs come there to help as well), his name will be suffixed with "[MSFT]".

          So ... on slashdot that would be what?

          M$FT?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by quarterbuck (1268694)
        It is the convention to refer to companies by stock quotes in financial forums (yahoo finance for example). Maybe the poster is more familiar with those boards than with slashdot.
        We should welcome all outsiders to our board (onboard?) no? With the recent market situation it is a case of "poor, hungry, huddled masses" :-)
    • And with this step, it *is* the de-facto standard.

      Instead of any open standard, a proprietary protocol controlled by Microsoft is now the standard for syncing.

      Thanks a whole hell of a lot, Google and Apple.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gwait (179005)

        It's not clear at all from the article that Google are actually using the "Microsoft Active Sync" software directly. It says they licensed the "technology".

        I expect they made their own "two way" sync product for google that does not interoperate with active sync, maybe?

        It's an incredibly obvious idea, just another lame patent locked down by big dollars.
        You could argue that two way information sync has been going on since the first two people had an agreeable conversation.

        • by jonbryce (703250)

          On the client side, I would hope you can just put Google's server details into Activesync and have your google mail and calendar appear on your phone.

        • by argent (18001)

          I expect they made their own "two way" sync product for google that does not interoperate with active sync, maybe?

          Why on earth would they license ActiveSync instead of using SyncML in that case? Particularly when they already have support for SyncML?

    • by superNag (72318)

      Well, they also invented the 'XMLHTTP' which spawned Ajax, but almost nobody would associate them with it now.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by molarmass192 (608071)
        Well ... yes ... MS invented and implemented it as an ActiveX control. However, MS wasn't the first to integrate it natively into JavaScript, that honor goes to Mozilla. MS only followed suit in IE 7.0. On that note, we were leveraging dynamic image loading in JavaScript to do ajaxy things in HTML long before XMLHTTP ever came around.
    • by speedtux (1307149)

      And with this step, it *is* the de-facto standard.

      No, it's not. It's only a standard for Microsoft and Apple mobile phones, and for Microsoft Exchange. There are a lot of people using those devices, but that doesn't make it a de-facto standard. For it to be a de-facto standard, there would have to be a lot of implementations of the protocol, and there aren't. SyncML may or may not have fewer users, but it has far more implementors.

      Intersting thought, that the only thing being left of MSFT in a couple of

  • We're not evil! Honest injun! We licnsed ActiveSync to Google, who is also not evil!

    Okay, I can't keep a straight face now for some reason... :-?

  • by Reason58 (775044)
    Now Google can sync their deletions [slashdot.org] with your portable device too.
  • Hah! That's a joke (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Weaselmancer (533834)

    "a great example of Microsoft's openness to generally license our patents under fair and reasonable terms so long as licensees respect Microsoft intellectual property."

    Ha ha yeah, my ass.

    What Google has just done is to license PPP from Microsoft. Nice job.

    Don't believe me? Read this. [handhelds.org]

    All the "Activesync Protocol" is, is good old PPP.

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      P-P-PowerBook [zug.com]?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by LiENUS (207736)

      All the "Activesync Protocol" is, is good old PPP.

      Umm what? It looks like he's just using ppp to connect the device up to his computer. ActiveSync is as much PPP as email is ethernet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by horza (87255)

      "a great example of Microsoft's openness to generally license our patents under fair and reasonable terms so long as licensees respect Microsoft intellectual property"

      I translate this as: "we bought this thing ages ago, we used it to drive somebody we didn't like out of business, it no longer provides us with any competitor advantage, and the code base is a mess anyway."

      Isn't industry moving to SyncML? This guy was watching ActivSync creep up 3 years ago [funambol.com].

      Phillip.

      • Isn't industry moving to SyncML?

        With Microsoft, Google, and Apple behind ActiveSync, apparently not. Who's using SyncML?

        • All Nokia smartphones?

          • by Talez (468021)

            lolwut? [nokia.com]

            Nokia has an Exchange connector for most of its S60 models and has had it for ages. It also has a Blackberry connector for those people with BES as well.

        • by DiLLeMaN (324946)

          Apart from Nokia (and other handset makers too, no doubt), didn't Google support SyncML in their spiffy new Mobile Sync [google.com] thingy?

          At first I was really interested in that, because I'm both a Nokia and a Google user. Unfortunately, for my phone calendar sync isn't supported, kinda making this whole thing useless for me.

    • I think you're completely misunderstanding what he was setting up there... it looks like he's using PPPD to "bridge" the iPAQ across his Linux box to his Windows box, just so he can sniff the ActiveSync traffic.

      From the page you reference:
      "You can use your device as if it were *directly* connected to the Windows box, and you can spy the traffic between the Device and the Server !

      The protocol seems to be needing a TCP server on the ActiveSync side, on port 5679. "

      That, er, doesn't mean ActiveSync is PPP.

    • by DaHat (247651) on Monday February 09, 2009 @07:45PM (#26792583) Homepage

      I suspect I am not the only one who now feels dumber having read your comment.

      Your saying that Active Sync is just PPP is like claiming that... DNS is just ARP... one (can and in the case of Active Sync) may use the other... but is not absolutely required to... and even when such a low level protocol is used, it is the higher level data that matters to applications.

      If it was that simple... don't you think there'd be more FOSS implementations of ActiveSync than there is if it was just PPP... oh right, it's not!

      To recap... PPP: Layer 2 protocol, Active Sync: (likely) Layer 3-5 protocol

    • It can connect over ppp but so can a lot of other things. This is sort of like saying that because Firefox connects over TCP/IP, the html protocol is just TCP/IP or that a Porsche is just old plain asphalt because it gets somewhere by road.

    • by nxtw (866177) on Monday February 09, 2009 @08:48PM (#26793081)

      What Google has just done is to license PPP from Microsoft. Nice job.

      Don't believe me? Read this. [handhelds.org]

      All the "Activesync Protocol" is, is good old PPP.

      No. Google licensed Exchange ActiveSync [microsoft.com], a protocol runs on top of http(s) to provide calendar and contacts synchronization and push email for mobile devices. It only requires an internet connection - unlike BlackBerry, which requires special network support.

      On the client side, Exchange ActiveSync is implemented by the iPhone (since firmware 2.0), Windows Mobile devices, and some Sony Ericsson and Nokia devices. Microsoft Exchange is the most popular server, but other closed- (Zimbra) and open-source (Z-Push) implementations exist.

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        zimbra is opensource

        • by nxtw (866177)

          Although the main Zimbra product is open-source, the connector for ActiveSync is not. It requires an additional license.

        • by repvik (96666)

          But their outlook connector is proprietary

    • by alanwj (242317)

      All the "Activesync Protocol" is, is good old PPP.

      Not even close to the same universe as correct.

      ActiveSync is an email synchronization protocol (among other things) built on top of WBXML and HTTP(S). See Microsoft's documentation for it here [google.com].

  • woopee (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday February 09, 2009 @07:27PM (#26792387) Homepage Journal

    Really this is ...
    Okay why can't we have an open standard to sync data with mobile devices?
    I mean just how hard would it be? I don't use outlook under windows and I do use Linux. I want some way to sync my phone to all my systems.

    • by icebike (68054)

      It would be very hard.

      1) Devise something (spend 4 years getting to version 1.0)
      2) Spend 15 years trying to get any handset makers to use it.
      3) Defend handset maker in court after Microsoft sues their pants off
      4) rinse repeat..

    • Re:woopee (Score:5, Informative)

      by Constantine XVI (880691) <trash@eighty+slashdot.gmail@com> on Monday February 09, 2009 @07:51PM (#26792641)

      We do. It's called SyncML. Google now supports it as well (though calendar sync isn't 100% together yet)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mathfeel (937008)
        I use scheduleworld.com and have pretty much given up of synchronizing with Gmail because every time I do it, Gmail complete mess up the first-name/middle-name/last-name of the contact because gmail assume that the display name is in the form of firstname lastname. Is this a nonissue with English-speaking world? Where I live, I want different display format for different names. F-L for Western names and L-F for Asian names. To me, Gmail contact is pretty feature-limited.
        • "firstname" and "lastname" are absolutely braindead in a global environment. Please, PLEASE PLEASE for $DIETY's sake, use
          "given name" and "surname" and throw the abomination that is firstname/lastname in the fucking trash where it belongs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bcrowell (177657)

      Okay why can't we have an open standard to sync data with mobile devices?

      Because your mobile devices are proprietary systems, and the companies who sold them to you don't want use every possible piece of functionality as a revenue stream.

      If you want to synchronize your files between various devices, using open-source software, try unison [upenn.edu]. It's free, it's open source, it's fast, and IMO it's of very high quality. I use it to sync two desktops, a server, and an ARM-based network appliance (NSLU2). The key

  • What'd they license? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Monday February 09, 2009 @07:28PM (#26792395) Homepage Journal

    Does anyone actually know what was licensed here? Was there even a patent involved or is this journalist just expecting sense to spew out of the mouth of a Microsoft executive when he should know better?

    • by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Monday February 09, 2009 @07:48PM (#26792611)

      A chair. With a hand-written note saying "Gonna fucking kill you." All very valuable IP.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tacvek (948259)

      An above poster suggested that they licensed the Exchange ActiveSync protocol, which would allow Android phones to grow support for syncing contacts/calendar-events with your exchange server, and receiving push email. I have no doubt that a patent is involved, but the licensing also mostly likely included protocol documentation and permission to implement such a system. That makes good sense to me, so I'd put money on this being what was licensed. This has nothing to do with the PCPhone ActiveSync protocol.

    • by PMuse (320639)

      It seems pretty clear from the MS quote that Google took a license to some patents (ones that cover MS ActiveSync). What's not clear from the announcement is whether Google is actually using any MS-written software in it's product.

      Anyone know?

      • by QuantumG (50515) *

        Dude, MS quotes are always exactly the same. "We're leveraging our IP and that makes us still a winner, even though we can't seem to ship a product that anyone actually wants, you should buy our stock." They could have sold Google an air strip and they'd say that.

  • moar plz (Score:3, Funny)

    by Eil (82413) on Monday February 09, 2009 @07:45PM (#26792579) Homepage Journal

    Horacio Gutierrez, said in a statement that the Google license is "a great example of Microsoft's openness to generally license our patents under fair and reasonable terms

    Cool, can you point us to all the other examples?

    • "Fair and Reasonable" means "terms that only a large company like Google can afford". If you're an open source project, you can suck Microsoft's exhaust.

      "Fair and Reasonable" is a term Microsoft uses to fight off any responsibility for letting open standards pollute their precious proprietary protocols.

    • Re:moar plz (Score:5, Informative)

      by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday February 09, 2009 @08:29PM (#26792937) Journal

      Cool, can you point us to all the other examples?

      Sure. You might want to look at the current list of specs covered by the Open Specification Promise [microsoft.com] (that means no licensing fees, royalty-free, and a patent non-enforecement guarantee) for a start.

      • by powerlord (28156)

        Interesting list, but I'm not sure what to think over their "Published Protocols" section.

        They could simply be making sure that people know they won't sue over these published protocols, but it seems like they are trying to imply they COULD (or should have reason to?).

        The fact that the list includes Appletalk, Telnet, POP3, SunRPC and Novel protocols is just absurd.

        • They could simply be making sure that people know they won't sue over these published protocols, but it seems like they are trying to imply they COULD (or should have reason to?).

          The fact that the list includes Appletalk, Telnet, POP3, SunRPC and Novel protocols is just absurd.

          Keep in mind that back in the day, a lot of protocols that ended up being single-vendor were originally developed by a committee (SMB comes to mind). I'm fairly certain MS had a hand in developing the original RPC protocol, though I'm not sure if SunRPC is a derivative of that (like MS-RPC and COM), or not. I don't know the other ones, but they may have a hand there as well.

          Well, either that, or there are indeed some patents that cover (or MS thinks cover) some parts of those, in which case OSP is basically

  • "Thus begins a new world order. In the past we at MS were more than willing to face protracted legal battles with smaller opponents until their resources were depleted. We now wish to move beyond our past antitrust positions and compete freely and openly in the market of ideas. Primarily because in this case we have no choice. The opponent is too large and the economy is bad and we would probably lose. But smaller less financial able companies beware. Don't take this as a sign of weakness. If you do not hav
  • After my experience with ActiveSync on my iPaq... to hell with it. I won't use any product that uses ActiveSync, even if it's got Theo, RMS, Linus, Steve Jobs, and the whole FreeBSD core team recommending it.

    Let alone mere Google.

    • I won't use any product that uses ActiveSync, even if it's got Theo, RMS, Linus, Steve Jobs, and the whole FreeBSD core team recommending it.

      I wouldn't use anything that has all those people recommending it. Because at that point, you know the aliens have begun employing their mind control devices!

      *dons Google Tinfoil Hat Perpetual Beta*

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday February 09, 2009 @08:01PM (#26792715)
    A company as big as Microsoft cannot be completely evil. Likewise, a company as big as Google cannot be completely non-evil. MS does play a big role in driving standards, for better or worse. Heck, MS might even be more diligent in getting Silverlight supported on all platforms, whereas I _still_ can't get Flash 8/9 support for my Wii or Android phone. Despite Ballmer's threats to "kill Google", his primary responsibility is to make money for MS shareholders, not to put Google out of business. Besides which, isn't MS planning on abandoning the Zune and getting out of the MP3 player/PDA market anyway? (I wonder if they will still push their OS for cellphones.)
    • A company as big as Microsoft cannot be completely evil.

      Licensing a suite of proprietary interfaces and protocols lest Google implement their own and promote open source and open systems is not an example of Microsoft not being "ebil".

      • by maxume (22995)

        Yes, how awful that their backend systems will interoperate with the tens of millions currently deployed devices (both for Google and the people that own the devices). I would imagine that, were they unable to obtain a license, Google would end up implementing the support in house anyway.

        The good news is that it doesn't have to be either/or, they can probably manage to support open standards along with this protocol.

        • by argent (18001)

          Yes, how awful that their backend systems will interoperate with the tens of millions currently deployed devices (both for Google and the people that own the devices).

          Yes, that's the argument that Microsoft apologists always use in favor of using Microsoft proprietary protocols instead of open ones, until their ox gets gored and all of a sudden they're wondering how they got stuck with an orphaned product they can't get support for.

          Won't happen to you? Remember Plays For Sure?

          • by maxume (22995)

            No, no, no, I'm apologizing for Google! It is entirely practical for them to buy support *now*, while making sure to support open standards on an ongoing basis, especially on Android, where they can influence the part of the market that matters (because people wanting to use their phones with Google apps are going to give a shit about open whatever that their phone doesn't support...).

            (And I haven't purchased any drm media, save a few DVDs, so I am pretty fuzzy on all the drm-gone-wrong stories out there.)

    • by WNight (23683)

      Ballmer's [...] primary responsibility is to make money for MS shareholders

      You know, I don't really care if someone is making my life miserable for fun, or because someone is paying them to. This whole "I was just following the 'more profit' order" thing should have gone out with the Nuremberg trials.

      The funny thing is that after suing some little company out of existence over some fake shit like a software patent he'd expect one of their employees to help him if he was having a heart attack or choking. As if anything done in "business" is fine.

  • ...and far from earning respect, Microsoft's thieving, scattergun approach to acquiring patents deserves only disgust and contempt. I know it's really the patent system's fault that Microsoft and others are both motivated and enabled to steal by patenting the trivial, the broad, the already invented etc. in the first place, but if theft and extortion were made legal it wouldn't make calls for respect from professional thieves and racketeers any more palatable, would it?

  • by Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) on Monday February 09, 2009 @08:13PM (#26792823)

    I just tried it with my windows mobile 6.1 phone (Samsung Blackjack II) and followed the instructions to the letter. No joy. It was good for about 20 minutes of aggravation though. Maybe Google can harness that angst for their next datacenter project. grrrr...

    • by repvik (96666)

      Did you run into an error? Make sure you just have "calendar" and "contacts" checked in ActiveSync, not mail/tasks.

  • before this thing starts to smell bad.

  • Does this have any advantage over NemusSync? It doesn't require jailbreaking, but Nemus lets me maintain a calendar on my iPhone that isn't synced or erased when I sync my Google calendar data, which is a feature I do use. What does Google Sync have going for it?

    • by nxtw (866177)

      It syncs contacts and should eventually support true push email, unless Google decides for some odd reason not to implement it.

    • by garcia (6573)

      Does this have any advantage over NemusSync? It doesn't require jailbreaking, but Nemus lets me maintain a calendar on my iPhone that isn't synced or erased when I sync my Google calendar data, which is a feature I do use. What does Google Sync have going for it?

      Haven't you answered your own question already? While Jailbreaking is a cool hack and NemusSync works, I honestly don't see how you can think it's a viable application for the iPhone. Back when I was jailbreaking my iPhone, I did so solely for Nemus

    • It removes another third party from having your data. If i use googlesync, my datastore comes from my dataprovider. If i use NemusSync, i have to hand another company my name and password.

  • I have been using TouchDown for Exchange support, but built in activesync that I don't have to buy for $30 would be awesome.
  • by qazwart (261667) on Monday February 09, 2009 @10:41PM (#26793295) Homepage

    Google benefits because they can now easily sync to Exchange servers. Before, Google's Exchange synchronization tool required you to keep Outlook as you default Email account and have it installed on your PC and your PC up and running and logged into your account. Even then, it wasn't too smooth.

    By licensing ActiveSync, Google can now synchronize their calendar (and gmail) to people's MS Exchange server calenders (and email).

    For Microsoft, it takes a bit of pressure off of businesses who are finding Exchange's proprietary technology confining.

    Microsoft's Exchange Server is one of the major components that tie businesses to Microsoft based solutions. This monopoly is beginning to fray. Non-Windows portable devices keep on multiplying, and employees are demanding to be serviced by the IT department. In order to prevent companies from abandoning Exchange Server, Microsoft is allowing non-Windows devices some access.

    By allowing non-Windows devices access to Exchange, Microsoft hopes to keep their Exchange monopoly alive. Windows systems are still first class Exchange citizens, but by allowing basic synchronization with non-Windows devices, Microsoft has relieved the pressure on companies to abandon Exchange.

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      I don't think Microsoft's monopoly is beginning to fray. They have never had a monopoly in mobile devices, and what they are doing is entrenching Exchange as the monopoly standard for email servers.

  • A great example of making a proprietary method of syncing mobile devices even more important when there are open standards already available...

    nice one google, lets add to your monopolistic competitor's ability to make the market even less free then it should be.

    There are many things that should be forced open and active sync is a good example. Im sure people could list a tonne of others.

  • by LuYu (519260)

    Why would Google want to license the most broken piece of software that MS has ever produced? ActiveSync is quite possibly the worst software that I have ever had to deal with. It is slow, unstable, and unreliable. It often has to be reinstalled. It fails for no reason. Why would Google want to be within a mile of this twisted mess?

    Even a broken app that worked half the time would probably perform better over all than ActiveSync. Using ActiveSync was so painful, I just bought a CF card reader/write

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They didn't license the software, they licensed the protocol for emails, contacts, calendar to be pushed to devices. MUCH different than the software you are complaining about.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dhavleak (912889)

      ...It often has to be reinstalled...

      ...I just bought a CF card reader/writer for my HP PDA (compare 15 minutes to transfer an mp3 with ActiveSync to 10 seconds directly)...

      It sounds like you're mistaking the Desktop ActiveSync program (now called WMDC) with Exchange Server ActiveSync (the protocol) that Google licensed. The ActiveSync protocol is one of the few things about Windows Mobile that Just Works.

  • the synchronization of data between mobile devices

    To be precise, the synchronization of some data between mobile devices: it still doesn't support tasks and notes.

    It is a pity, but I had a better sync 10 years ago on my palm. The concept of custom conduits allowed for a very smooth synchronization of many different types of information: not only the big four (calendar, contacts, tasks and notes), but also e-books, passwords, etc. I love my iPhone, but I need 5 different ways to sync its data.
    • by jonbryce (703250)

      Tasks work fine on Activesync, at least on Windows Mobile Devices. Notes will sync with the desktop Activesync, but not over the air using Exchange Activesync.

  • Maybe we can have gmail push email to the iPhone now just like it does with Exchange.

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