Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Microsoft Patents Software The Courts Your Rights Online

Dell Says Re-Imaging HDs a Burden If Word Banned 376

Posted by timothy
from the what-you're-used-to dept.
N!NJA writes "In an amicus curiae brief filed on Aug. 24, Dell asked the judge overseeing the Eastern District Court of Texas to reconsider its order blocking sales of Word, part of the original ruling in favor of Canadian software developer i4i. In the worst case, the brief argued, the injunction should be delayed by 120 days. 'The District Court's injunction of Microsoft Word will have an impact far beyond Microsoft,' Dell and HP wrote. 'Microsoft Word is ubiquitous among word processing software and is included on [redacted] computers sold by Dell.' 'If Microsoft is required to ship a revised version of Word in Dell's computers, a change would need to be made to Dell's images,' Dell wrote. 'Making such a change would require extensive time- and resource- consuming testing.' An addendum to the brief notes that it was authored in Microsoft Word, part of Office 2003."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Dell Says Re-Imaging HDs a Burden If Word Banned

Comments Filter:
  • Re:That's fine (Score:5, Informative)

    by bkpark (1253468) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @06:32PM (#29247171) Homepage

    Except that's not what the injunction says. The quotes I can find [mckoolsmith.com] say:

    Today's permanent injunction prohibits Microsoft from selling or importing to the United States any Microsoft Word products that have the capability of opening .XML, .DOCX or DOCM files (XML files) containing custom XML.

    Given that Amazon.com "sells" some ebooks for $0, I doubt that shipping Word without charging for the license would pass the "selling or importing" ban.

    The injunction itself needs to be modified, and given the case Dell and HP make here, it seems like the original injunction was poorly thought out in terms of unintended consequences.

  • BS (Score:3, Informative)

    by Pecisk (688001) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @06:37PM (#29247213)

    Of course it is BS, it is more or less doable, comparing to penalties which they will get themselves into if they won't comply. It's interesting that they just don't use 'lost sales' argument. It could have some consequences for Dell too?

    Anyway, this case is ugly as it can get about software patents. It is not traditional troll case, but still I don't like it - I don't like software patents at all.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... org minus author> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @06:48PM (#29247309)

    While true, it's also explicitly one of the factors that go into determining whether injunctions should be issued--- they're discretionary relief that is supposed to take into account any hardship the injunction might cause to nonparties.

  • by allroy63 (571629) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @07:08PM (#29247471)
    Anyone who has visited the Dell website with any recency knows that Word is not bundled as a default "freebie-included-in-price" option. The default option is "No Productivity Software Added." Adding MS Works (which includes MS Word 2003) costs $79. So what's the "imaging" problem? Are we supposed to pretend this particular retailer, whose model is different from others because of user-customization options, is incapable of providing machines without a software option (particularly given that this is their default configuration?).... The place this impacts Dell the most I'd imagine is in relation to Enterprise level customers, and all those Colleges and Universities they are partners with --- who sell pre-configured machines with Word installed to their students. Of course, everyone has moved into their dorms in the next "120 days" and it's not like Enterprise customers in Canada won't deal with this from every PC retailer. I smell a rat.
  • by shis-ka-bob (595298) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @07:09PM (#29247481)
    They do not use rewritable disks. They have disks that are evaporated aluminum on a plastic substrate. They have to remaster a new disk image and start running a separate batch for the non-Window version. This will also make for one more option to manage. They didn't say it was impossible, they just wanted to tell the judge that his decision has consequences that effect a major Texas high tech company.
  • by jonbryce (703250) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @07:12PM (#29247493) Homepage

    A 90 day trial version of MS Office is generally included in the default image.

  • by PhunkySchtuff (208108) <kai@nOspaM.automatica.com.au> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @07:41PM (#29247687) Homepage

    Removing the software requires them to re-do the image from scratch.
    Machines these days, even if you don't purchase Office with them, generally come with what's called the OPK - OEM Preinstallation Kit installed. It's a copy of Office, sitting there on the hard drive, just waiting for a serial number to be entered to activate it. Depending on the serial number entered, it will then become that particular flavour of Office.
    Even if you chose the option that they have when configuring the machine to order to not have Office installed, I'm betting that you still get office on the hard drive, you just don't get the serial number to activate it.

  • Re:That's fine (Score:5, Informative)

    by poetmatt (793785) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @07:54PM (#29247757) Journal

    No, the injunction was quite correct. Did you read what I4I said? They said they won't go after the existing copies, only new infringement. [slashdot.org]

    Who else do you think has power to enforce this other than the patent holder?

    This is an odd issue for the courts, as Microsoft did legitimately cheat I4I out (read the details), but on the flip side software patents are an unnecessary burden.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @08:49PM (#29248059)

    Removing the software requires them to re-do the image from scratch.

    I can see the answer right there.

    Even if you chose the option that they have when configuring the machine to order to not have Office installed, I'm betting that you still get office on the hard drive, you just don't get the serial number to activate it.

    And being a HP reseller, I can confirm that yes, it's still there even if you dont purchase office with it. I assume it would be the same with Dell products.

  • Re:That's fine (Score:5, Informative)

    by KahabutDieDrake (1515139) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @08:57PM (#29248109)
    All of this is absurd. There is no "undue" harm or burden on Dell or HP here. I speak as someone that worked in dell's testing lab for more than a year creating these images. It would be TRIVIAL for dell to make new images and put them into production. None of the hardware is changing, only the software and only the office suite at that. There is no known case where removing Office (or just word from the office install) would cause any issues. Other than not being able to open a number of document types, but then, that's the whole point. It might take them a week or two, but they have 60 days or more, so it's not like it's going to hurt them. Further, they make new images regularly for new systems, it's not like they don't do this shit every day.

    At the end of the day, this is a further play by MS's lackeys to fight this legitimate injunction on behave of MS. Nothing more. Nothing less.
  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:17PM (#29248199)

    People keep saying this on Slashdot, but have you ever bought a computer from HP? Compared to HP, and other computer retailers (most of them at least), Dell ships hardly any crapplications at all. In addition, Dell actually ships you a clean and working OS disk (with the crapplications on a completely different disk), HP puts both on the same disk making it impossible to reinstall your HP OS without also reinstalling the crapplications.

    In short, Dell's one of the absolute best when it comes to shipping clean OSes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:31PM (#29248275)
    I'll post as an AC since I no longer work for Dell.
    I think your customer rep needs a kick up his ass. I used to work in the Enterprise division of Dell earlier and (helped) developed Altiris plug-ins to deploy customer images. If your rep is selling you the consumer imaging tools and/or has not told you about how to deploy your config specific images from Dell's factory or deploy it using Altiris/3rd party plugins on a base image, he must be slacking off.
    That said, in many cases, what you are doing is the right thing. Wiping clean the base image and loading your own is often a simple way of keeping images/patch levels to corp standards and to comply with license agreements.
    Dell does try to make this process simple and they can provide you more tools to do your job better.
  • Re:That's fine (Score:2, Informative)

    by mrbcs (737902) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @09:39PM (#29248331)
    Sorry I don't have mod points. This is the only correct post in this whole thread:

    All of this is absurd. There is no "undue" harm or burden on Dell or HP here. I speak as someone that worked in dell's testing lab for more than a year creating these images. It would be TRIVIAL for dell to make new images and put them into production. None of the hardware is changing, only the software and only the office suite at that. There is no known case where removing Office (or just word from the office install) would cause any issues. Other than not being able to open a number of document types, but then, that's the whole point. It might take them a week or two, but they have 60 days or more, so it's not like it's going to hurt them. Further, they make new images regularly for new systems, it's not like they don't do this shit every day.

  • by kregg (1619907) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:06PM (#29248463)

    Because if OpenOffice was found to be infringing on this patent and Dell packaged OpenOffice instead your post would read "Maybe this is a wake up call for people relying on *.odt", right? And that your post would also have a question mark next time.

    I was referring to a file format rather than Open Office. You do realise that there are other Word processors that can save odt files don't you?

  • Re:Blame the patents (Score:3, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:46PM (#29248657) Homepage

    So now we see the far-reaching disaster that occurs when we enforce these stupid software patents

    It could be worse. When Kodak lost a patent case against Polaroid in 1985, they were given 30 days to stop making film for instant cameras, exit the business, and buy back all retailer inventory. Which they did. Then they lost a class action suit and had to buy back the cameras already in consumer hands.

  • Re:That's fine (Score:3, Informative)

    by tftp (111690) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:50PM (#29248673) Homepage

    I doubt that Dell pays Microsoft 60 days ahead of time for software that they are going to copy onto a new harddrive

    There is another reason to not pay ahead of time - the financial one. With Dell's volume, paying months in advance will result in a tidy sum of money that is on a permanent, no-interest loan to Microsoft. The current business practice is completely opposite - under the "net 30" [wikipedia.org] rule Dell would pay Microsoft not later than 30 days *after* Dell created a copy.

  • by krenshala (178676) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:22PM (#29248819) Homepage

    Dell doesn't keep "an image". It keeps the pieces required to build the required image necessary for the individual computer based on its ordered configuration, which includes what software it was supposed to ship with. That "image" (which is the parts used to build the image) is used to build pre-imaged hard drives for warranty replacements, or software recovery CD sets (boot from disk, load the factory image). I think Dell's complaint is that the injunction means they wouldn't be able to send out recovery CDs or imaged hard drives to customers that purchased the software prior to the injuction but needed the image after it took place. The 120 day time frame they mention sounds suspiciously like the TTL of pieces used to build the image.

    Now, do I think the court should listen to Dell and HP about this? I'm not sure.

    I do know that I think this kind of patent is crap that shouldn't be enforced. Especially considering, as someone posted above, XML was designed to support the features this patent claims to cover. I know for sure XML has been around longer than the patent has, so prior art means MS should "win" this case (despite my misgivings over letting MS "win" something like this).

  • Re:Poor excuses ... (Score:3, Informative)

    by meist3r (1061628) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @12:07AM (#29249047)
    Should you maybe READ what other people write before you complain? Oh wait, I forgot this is Slashdot after all.

    They should be forced to ship their machines with something like OpenOffice.

    I think perhaps you missed what this case is all about.

    I think perhaps you've missed details like this: http://yro.slashdot.org/story/09/08/18/190227/i4i-Says-OpenOffice-Does-Not-Infringe-Like-MS-Word [slashdot.org]

  • Re:That's fine (Score:5, Informative)

    by 10Ghz (453478) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @04:52AM (#29250095)

    I4I said they would have sued sooner but were having financial problems.

    I checked out the i4i web site. My impression is that i4i had financial problems because they were a dinky little company with almost no significant products. I suspect they had no more than one software developer, and were probably lucky to stay in business all this time. I doubt MS even bothered to ever meet with them.

    Well, this [theglobeandmail.com] paints a totally different kind of picture. Few quotes:

    "Nine years ago, an unusual and powerful alliance approached a tiny Toronto software company with a fateful proposition. Microsoft was helping U.S. intelligence sift through relentless mountains of documents relating to the 9/11 terrorist attacks but had few means to sort them out. This firm, i4i, had the software that could intuit crucial, revelatory patterns that its own software could not.

    It wasn't long before Microsoft recognized the value of the firm's technology, and, as it is now famously alleged, pinched it."

    "Their circumstances are more humble than they used to be, when i4i took up 21/2 floors of the building and employed roughly 200 people, with offices in Manchester, Paris, Amsterdam, Washington, D.C., and San Diego. âoeWhen Microsoft began offering their technology for free,â Mr. Vulpe says, âoeall of our customers went away.â"

    It should be noted that it sure as hell wouldn't be the first time MS did something like this. They did it with Quicktime in the 90's as well.

  • by sydb (176695) <michael AT wd21 DOT co DOT uk> on Sunday August 30, 2009 @05:59AM (#29250281)

    This is such a bad example. On both Debian and Ubuntu if you apt-get remove mono you'll be presented with a list of affected packages. This is the whole idea behind dependencies. You think Debian or Canonical have tested every possible combination of installed packages? Well, they haven't and they don't need to. I'm willing to bet that at least one of my systems' installed packages lists are unique in the world and it didn't need tested by Debian first.

  • by Haeleth (414428) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @06:29AM (#29250371) Journal

    That sounds reasonable. It's not really fair for OEMs to suffer for Microsoft's misdeeds, but likewise it would not be acceptable for Microsoft to dodge reasonable injunctions just because they would inconvenience OEMs.

    "Too big to be illegal" is a ludicrous concept. It makes "too big to fail" look positively sensible.

  • Re:That's fine (Score:3, Informative)

    by makomk (752139) on Sunday August 30, 2009 @05:27PM (#29254579) Journal

    And if you'd actually read the fucking patent you'd realise that it doesn't cover SGML and explicitly says so. It also doesn't cover using XML in the normal way as a document format, including XML with metadata - as you say, that's like SGML.

    What it does cover is splitting the document into two parts - a part containing text, and a second part containing formatting information for the text that references into the first part by location. This is nothing like the normal use of XML/SGML for document formatting. It is, however, how Microsoft's Custom XML feature works.

    In short, you are an idiot and have no idea what you're talking about.

"Someone's been mean to you! Tell me who it is, so I can punch him tastefully." -- Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Mouse

Working...