Responding to post on OTB and BlueJ

[Please read my Disclaimer]

NOTE: I don't own Object Test Bench, I just happened to blog about it as I thought it was a hidden feature in VS 2005 and only discovered it when playing around with Class Designer.

Recently, Michael Kölling, one of the creators of BlueJ, "an IDE for beginner Java developers", wrote an article about how Microsoft has gone BlueJ. Michael's article links to me since I blogged about Object Test Bench previously so I felt compelled to at least provide him a response especially after he wrote this:

Quote: Do I care? I don't care that they copied BlueJ - good on them, and good luck to them. But I care about attribution.
I work at a university, and I strongly believe in honest attribution of sources. Microsoft does not have a good track record on this. So I decided to post these screenshots here so that people can at least see and make up there own minds.

After reading the post, I followed up internally and here's the response from the [academic] team:

Quote: We talked to hundreds of teachers when we built the new academic features in Visual Studio 2005 such as the Class Designer, the Object Test Bench, and the Express product line. Many teachers told us that they liked using Visual Studio with their students, but they felt that it was difficult to teach Object-Oriented Design principles using earlier versions of Visual Studio. One of the scenarios we chose to address was to make Visual Studio 2005 a better tool for teaching object-oriented and service-oriented programming. “Design-time debugging” as a feature was already a planned feature for Visual Studio 2005. Object Test Bench, which evolved as a visualization of this functionality, was influenced by feedback from teachers who were used to working with BlueJ. The Class Designer was also a planned feature of the new “Whitehorse” functionality. We did tweak both of these features based on teacher feedback, which borrows from several teaching concepts these teachers already enjoy with BlueJ. We have received very positive feedback on these features so far, and we welcome more feedback to enhance teaching scenarios even more with our next Visual Studio release, code named “Orcas.”

*My* interpretation of the above statement is basically that our academic customers wanted this because of the success of this BlueJ feature.

Michael's comments were pretty fair, the only thing I took issue with was his "invention"/"innovation" statement which I found misleading:
Quote: Already, the blogs are buzzing about this "Great New Microsoft Innovation". (Did you notice, by the way, how Microsoft have managed to change the term in all the relevant discussions from "invention" to "innovation"? Very clever. Copying someone else's idea is not an invention, but it is innovation. Microsoft: the innovation company...)

Don't get me wrong, I open my mouth on my blog quite a bit, but I never used the word invention or innovation once in my blog post. I described it as "a new Visual Studio 2005 feature".  I assumed that maybe it was one of the other bloggers talking about OTB. Nope, none of the ones that Michael linked to used those words either. Now that Michael has said we described this as an "invention/innovation", other bloggers have now passed on this misinformation (1, 2). So it goes in the blogging world.






Comments (43)
  1. Tim Anderson says:

    My take on VS vs BlueJ.

  2. david b. says:

    C’mon… !

    Can’t you simply say "WE COPIED IT" ????

    That long explanation it’s not necessary.

    Blame the teachers! They are the culprit !!

    It happens they used BlueJ.

  3. Daniel Moth says:

    Blog link of the week 24

  4. Luke90 says:

    As a follow-up to this story…

    Microsoft are now trying to patent this feature,

    see Michael Kolling’s blog here:

    Maybe the people who filed the patent weren’t aware of the prior art but this doesn’t make Microsoft look good.

  5. A User says:

    This issue has risen it’s head again.

  6. Concerned citizen says:

    And now you’ve patented it. Disgusting.

  7. RMD says:

    What about the issue of Microsoft patenting this feature?

    If it wasn’t for the patent, I really doubt there would be such a big deal about this.

  8. Senso says:

    Micro$oft again…

  9. dash says:

    so… M$ basically copied BlueJ functionality and tries to sell it as "it is what the customers wanted".

    sadly it is still stealing. no matter who wanted it or why. M$ is going down… slowly but steadily. No illusions here. All M$ can do is sue its way to success. Good luck with that. Sadly this might just work…

  10. Ben H. says:

    Perhaps you could explain why this non-invention was recently patented by your company.

  11. Abraham Tehrani says:

    Ironically the Visual Studio BlueJ Edition is not available for the Express editions (read: free).

    Netbeans with the (read: sanctioned) BlueJ Edition will still be the popular choice for that reason.

  12. JC says:

    And now you’ve patented it – nice…

  13. don't misquote me says:

    man, that sucks that zealots have tried to spin your words.  I feel your pain.

  14. Arnold says:

    And now the three thiefs Gautam Goenka, Partho P. Das, and Umesh Unnikrishnan try to patent what they ripped of from BlueJ. Disgusting!

  15. Univ. lecturer says:

    It looks that Microsoft steals the work of Universities (at least of the people working on them). I would propose a boicot on Microsoft products in reasearch/academic institutions.

  16. Some_guy_out_there says:

    First you copy, then you patent it. Next thing I hear will be Microsoft suing the BlueJ guys or others that use the same tech. [url=]Shame on you.[/url]

  17. Dubya says:

    > Don’t get me wrong, I open my mouth on my blog quite a bit, > but I never used the word invention or innovation once in my > blog post.

    Gotya! Running a search gives 5 pages with the word innovation

  18. dbcowboy says:

    every day there is more proof Microsoft resorts to illegal practices to keep its monopoly.  And where is the oversite this convicted company is supposed to be burdened with ?

  19. bwilczynski says:

    I wonder if you (personaly, nat as a team) will have enough guts to do something to prevent your company fropm doing something so clearly wrong and dishonest. Since (maybe accidentaly) you’ve acknowledged you know about your company clearly ignoring prior art in your patent application and you are in position (i assume) in stopping this action. It will be interesting to see if a Microsoft emploee can actually do something honest against the unofficial company policy of bullying small competitors out of business…

  20. Larry says:

    The BlueJ guys might have a good point in King-Arthur-Knights-of-the-Round-Table-land, but the real world is full of lawyers.

    Since they hadn’t bothered to protect their intellectual property, the field was open to someone else to grab it. If Microsoft wanted to use this very useful (and somewhat obvious) teaching tool in their product, they couldn’t sanely do so without IP protection. Maybe Microsoft’s patent application will be denied because of prior art, but i’m sure that would be fine with Microsoft. A legal precedent would have been set, so some bottom-feeding IP troll couldn’t take action against both BlueJ and Microsoft.

    This is pretty much common sense, unless you’re an anti-Microsoft zealot.

  21. MaDeR says:

    Larry, your morality is no different from that of Nigerian scammer. Steal, grab, acquire, assimilate where it is possibe. And, of course, scream when someone stelas from you.

    "somewhat obvious"

    Since when obvious things are patentable? At least theoretically.

    "Maybe Microsoft’s patent application will be denied because of prior art"

    Since when "prior art" have any meaning for you or Microsoft? Another annoyng, incovienient, idiotic thing, like "honesty", "justice" and other funny words that for someone of us have more meaning.

    "some bottom-feeding IP troll couldn’t take action against both BlueJ and Microsoft"

    You suggest that this situatin is good for BlueJ? Good joke.

    "anti-Microsoft zealot"

    Yes, anyone who does not like *stealing* features (almost literal, because thanks to patent microsoft deny acess to that feature for anyone else) is zealot.

  22. FraterM says:

    Even if you didn’t explicitly use "invention/innovation" will certainly be used on the Marketing Materials, along with your feature list.  So, you’ll end up with that being a result whether intentional or not, judging from past experience.

  23. Matt C says:

    "Now that Michael has said we described this as an ‘invention/innovation’, other bloggers have now passed on this misinformation"

    And now that the patent application has come to light, with the line:

    "Inventors: Goenka; Gautam; (Hyderabad, IN) ; Das; Partho P.; (Hyderabad, IN) ; Unnikrishnan; Umesh; (Redmond, WA)"

    "Assignee Name and Adress: Microsoft Corporation"

    You owe michael and those "other bloggers" an apology.

  24. anonymoose says:

    Quoting Larry:

    "If Microsoft wanted to use this very useful (and somewhat obvious) teaching tool in their product, they couldn’t sanely do so without IP protection."

    "A legal precedent would have been set, so some bottom-feeding IP troll couldn’t take action against both BlueJ and Microsoft."


    Are you high?  This blog post was originally written in June 2005.  The patent application was filed in January 2007.  So that’s at least 1.5 years of using "this very useful (and somewhat obvious) teaching tool" in their product, without "IP protection".  And by claiming the tool is "somewhat obvious", you are only strengthening the case against patenting it.

    "Some bottom-feeding IP troll" – more ironic words were never spoken.  By retracting the patent application and apologizing, Microsoft is admitting it had no merit.  If they had successfully obtained this meritless patent, and proceeded to sue BlueJ’s creators (you think they wouldn’t – remember "the real world is full of lawyers"), they’d be no different than any other "bottom-feeding IP troll", except for the fact they are at the top of the food chain.  Larry, I guess in your world, might makes right, and history is written by the winners.

  25. anonymoose says:

    Oops, I see that the patent application was filed in October 2005, not January 2007.  My bad.

  26. Chowdary Thammineedi says:

    Yes yes YES!

    I did think these were DESI morons who tried to patent this. It was’nt long ago that the same Idiotic desis tried to patent Bubble Sort from VIA or something.

    I feel sad that I am a desi. You stupid morons, stop this bullshit.

    Shame on you BLOODY PLAGIARISTS!

    Of course you never had a decent education where you were taught to never ever copy other’s work without attribution. Did you?

    You suckers bring a BAD name to all Indians (the asian variety)

  27. nick james says:

    Typically disgraceful behaviour, the sooner the EU. get the big guns out the better.

    These people : "Inventors: Goenka; Gautam; (Hyderabad, IN) ; Das; Partho P.; (Hyderabad, IN) ; Unnikrishnan; Umesh; (Redmond, WA)"

    are scum.

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