Let’s just make up some dollar values and print them as fact


Everybody is going nuts over a patent decision regarding the iPod interface, but that's not what I'm writing about (so don't ask me for my opinion). Rather, I'm reacting to the claims being made by many people that Apple will have to pay Microsoft $10 for every iPod.

What I want to know is where this amount "$10" came from.

Multiple people are confidently reporting a sawbuck as the amount in question. GeekCoffee attributes it to AppleInsider.com, but a search of AppleInsider turns up no article where they assigned a monetary value to the issue. A site called TrustedReviews repeats the $10 price tag with no source. ("You don't need a source. Just trust us!") MacNewsWorld even puts the amount in its headline, although the article gives no justification for how they arrived at it. Sky News helpfully converts the amount to £6 but again provides no source for this value.

Are people just making up stuff and publishing it as fact? Or is there some root source for this $10 amount that I'm missing and which nobody is bothering to cite? (My suspicion is that one person took a wild guess and everybody else decided to run with it.)

Comments (35)
  1. Gabe says:

    Has there ever been a time when MS has sued another company for patent infringement? In what cases have companies had to pay MS royalties after settling?

  2. James Risto says:

    This is eyeball-grab crap publicity at its best. Deciding IF anyone will pay anything and how is like step 856, and the issue is at step 2.

  3. Scott says:

    90% of all facts are made up.

  4. If Apple introduced the iPod in November 2001, and Microsoft submitted a patent application in May 2002, then isn’t the prior art obvious? Isn’t this just another abuse of the patent system?

  5. Riva says:

    It’s self-serving journalism:

    1) make up a ludicrous claim and print it: "Apple will have to pay Microsoft $10 for every iPod"

    2) force company to make a public statement

    3) spin the statement and run an article titled: "Public ‘outrage’ forces Microsoft to abandon iPod patent enforcement"

    thus turning a non-story into two sensationalist articles and noone is any wiser.

  6. Edward says:

    Microsoft didn’t set out to patent the concept of the iPod, or anything related. I don’t believe they will would be able to charge royalties on it, nor have they yet even suggested that they would attempt to.

    Microsoft submitted a patent application for a way of generating a list based on a seed item, an application that happened to be similar to an application later made by Apple for a development they related to the iPod.

    I’m not that familiar the all the options available in the current iPods, but is there currently a way of building a playlist dynamically based on a selection of a couple of tracks?

    If it is present in current iPods, was is also present in the firmware of iPods released before November 2002?

  7. PbW says:

    ("You don’t need a source. Just trust us!")

    Tit for tat!! That sounds similar to what MS says to their customers, wouldn’t you agree?

    Just Kidding..

  8. RMD says:

    Microsoft’s patent doesn’t cover the "interface" of the iPod. It covers the ability to dynamically create playlists based on previous play habits. (READ the patent!)

    As far as prior art, the patent system awards those who INVENT first, not those whole file first OR those who implement first. If Microsoft invented this technology before Apple, they win. Period. Doesn’t matter when Apple shipped the iPod or when each company applied for their patents.

  9. fake name says:

    Maybe you should explain why Microsoft thinks it’s ok to patent things.

  10. Jeff Parker says:

    >Microsoft’s patent doesn’t cover the "interface" of the iPod. It covers the ability to dynamically create playlists based on previous play habits.

    Which raises a good point I know Windows Media player 9 did this. 9 was out years before the Ipod. 10 has a much more refined system but 9 did it. Now if windows media player 9 was the first ones to do this I do not know but I do know 9 was around before the Ipod and had this functionality in it. Anyway I do not see what the big hoopla is about it anyway, I also do not see the I-pod as being the best media player out there in my own opinion. I prefer my Creative Zen because it also has fm radio and a lot of other useful features besides just a mp3 player. But hey who am I, nothing more than just a consumer, build a better mousetrap and I will buy it to replace my old one.

  11. Edward says:

    WMP9 was announced September 2002, thats after the 2nd Generation iPod was introduced.

  12. domovoi says:

    "Maybe you should explain why Microsoft thinks it’s ok to patent things."

    Except in this case, it was Apple trying to patent something and getting rejected because of the Microsoft patent. And anyways, what kind of world do you live in where it’s not ok to patent things? I mean, the government even has an entire body set up for handling these requests…

  13. Okay people no more talking about patents. I explicitly disclaimed this in my opening sentence. The topic for today is "making up stuff and reporting it as news".

  14. Michael says:

    Definitely a little off track. And did anyone see someone’s comment on one of Raymond’s recent posts pointing out a spelling error? In what way does that serve a constructive purpose?

    In any case, I’ve about had it with media and misinformation. I just finished reading an article entitled "Salesforce.com Unveils New OS." What?!?!? I was forced to write a three page letter to the editor in response, as I just couldn’t let that one slide. To their credit, it wasn’t entirely the journalists fault. Salesforce.com’s marketing department is completely out-of-control (although with media coverage like that, it’s obviously working…. maybe "genius" is more appropriate).

  15. Marcus Hass says:

    The patent process is long and complicated, including NFR (non-final rejection), final rejections, etc. It takes a long, long time with lots of little spats and quibbles along the way.

    BTW, didn’t Microsoft and Apple sign an agreement in 1997 to cross-license their current and future patents?

  16. vince says:

    Well at least MS would never make up things and report them as fact.

    I think there still are some features originally promised to be in Chicago or Cairo that everyone is still waiting on.

  17. An annoucement of intention is not a fact. I’m glad to hear, vince, that you’ve never had to change a plan after you’ve started on it. If only I were as smart as you.

  18. Alex says:

    Quick google news search shows the earliest article stemming from the UK Independent. However…costs money to see the article – could be the origination. Unless they too reference AppleInsider.com

  19. I just checked. The Independent sourced AppleInsider.com.

  20. Universalis says:

    This is good journalism. First, the $10 claim makes a good story, and covers column inches. Then the rebuttal of the $10 claim makes a good story and covers more column inches. Both stories make the reader feel more informed than he was before.

  21. James Day says:

    Does it matter? The iPod is a deliberately closed system and Apple has actively worked to break compatibility with other applications (Real’s for a start), just as Microsoft did when it came to Windows media formats and applications like VirtualDub.

    I don’t care about what happens with iPod because I’m not about to use a player which locks me in to a single vendor. That would be a crazy strategic choice for me to make and I try not to act in aways directly contrary to my own long term interests.

  22. Michael says:

    Everyone, raise your hand if you actually bothered to find out what the patents are for and what their implications are before posting? Anyone? Two, maybe three of you? Has it occured to anyone that there is no news story here?

    Maybe if you figure that out, you’ll realize why someone decided to post the article with the $10 figure. It was required in order to create news from what would otherwise have been a non-event.

  23. Alex says:

    Here’s what you want – someone already did the legwork: http://wizbangblog.com/archives/006789.php

  24. Andy says:

    Paul Graham had an interesting take on this very subject a while back:

    http://www.paulgraham.com/submarine.html

  25. > Maybe you should explain why Microsoft

    > thinks it’s ok to patent things.

    Maybe you should explain to us why IBM thinks it’s OK to do so as well – IBM received over *three thousand* patents in 2004 *alone*. Since IBM seems to be the darling coporation of the anti-Microsoft camp nowadays, perhaps that would be a good place to start.

    Microsoft has never used a patent offensively, nor have they ever used patents to pressure competitors. They license their IP (i.e., FAT) and they enforce it (i.e., ASF), but the vast majority of their patents are defensive in nature – and even so they get hit by dubious claims from the likes of Eolas who’ve figured the IP scene is a great way to make money without actually having a shipping product.

    But it’s so convenient to ignore all that – "boo-hoo, teh evil MS is charging Apple $10 for every iPod" FUD memes are much more fun.

  26. Have you ever known something was going to happen, and the

    anticipation of waiting for it to…

  27. Have you ever known something was going to happen, and the anticipation of waiting for it to occur…

  28. DustyMac says:

    To James Day:

    What’s the difference between Apple as a single vendor (hardware & software) and Microsoft as a single vendor (software)?

    The only place you’re locked in with the iPod is if you are buying digital music files and even there you are not truly locked in as several sites sell MP3 files. You are actually only locked out of buying protected WMA files.

    Regardless, I too am amazed at the propensity for the electronic (and other) media to print conjecture as fact. I am finding it impossible to ascertain the truth when searching on the web.

  29. Have you ever known something was going to happen, and the anticipation of waiting for it to occur…

  30. Have you ever known something was going to happen, and the anticipation of waiting for it to occur…

  31. Ivan says:

    The aspect of this news that rubs me is that the articles and public response make it sound like Microsoft is somehow attempting to bilk Apple out of anything. Microsoft didn’t tell Apple anything, didn’t ask Apple for anything. The US Patent Office told Apple that Microsoft apparently owns some IP Apple wants to patent.

  32. James Day says:

    DustyMac,

    No significant enough difference between the two. Can use MP3 or burn and rip but it’s better to spend money in the direction of companies doing a better job of serving my needs than those going proprietary and trying lock-in and/or partnering to produce things like the untrustworthy computing platform (can’t be trusted to protect my interests, like having perfect interoperability between lots of computers, platforms and gadgets over say 50 years of enjoyment of the media product I’ve purchased). If I wanted to go the burn and rip route I’d instead buy a physical CD and not have the chance of the artifacts from lossy compression.

    I’m not really surprised to see the press getting it wrong either. Seen enough of that in areas where I do know what’s happening.

  33. Cooney says:

    Gabe:

    There’s a story (possibly appocryphal) where BillG threatened IBM with an infringement lawsuit . They brought their stack of patents that were infringed upon, and IBM brought their (much larger) stack of patents that MS was infringing. After seeing this, MS quickly negotiated a cross licensing deal.

  34. Dan Char says:

    I actually know a couple of guys, their job is to make up headlines just like this one. Journalists will make up headlines with most ridicules claims without any facts just to attract more people. Especially now in the days of Blogolism where all the blogers are trying really hard the get attention.

  35. Bart Wiegmans says:

    Microsoft submitted a patent application for

    > a way of generating a list based on a seed

    > item, an application that happened to be

    > similar to an application later made by

    > Apple for a development they related to the

    > iPod.

    Well, that’s all hoopy, but that’s nothing relational databases haven’t been doing for ages. (Saying so as a relational database designer :-))

    So I’ll be suprised if this turns out to be valid.

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