Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Google and proprietary formats

Day-to-day I use an Ubuntu computer. The problem with open source is that every now and again you need a particular codec (say a way of encoding sound) or some other proprietary piece of software protected by a patent and you just can't do something

This is a big problem for people distributing open source systems such as Android. Access to patents is the stated reason why Google has just purchased Motorola mobility.

But hey - as an Ubuntu user - I am getting used to this.

You see I have (now infrequent) trouble with proprietary formats with conference calls and investor presentations. Microsoft is the worst offender (but I can't expect them to change). BofA can be surprisingly hard. But most things for most companies are fairly easily accessible.

Then I tried to listen to the Google conference call for the Motorola mobility purchase using an Ubuntu 11.04 and Google Chrome. 

I can do it but I am amused by their choice of format:

Yes you do see this right. I get the choice of Flash or Windows.

Both proprietary.



Anonymous said...

Hi John
Flash is installed on 99% of computers. Proprietary, yes, ubiquitous - pretty much.
The 1% of computers that Flash is not on (plus some companies that block Flash streaming content) tend to be large, conservative corporations - normally Microsoft customers, thus the Microsoft Windows Media format.
The number of people running Linux or other weird operating systems is low. And these people (eg you) are smart and technically competent enough to know how to get around the proprietary issues you mention.

John Hempton said...

I know that Ian. But when you have just spent $14 billion to make sure that proprietary software can't cause you much grief it is funny.


Tom said...

What's even funnier is that Google probably expects everyone to be using Google Chrome, which has Flash bundled in.

Now for the topic of that conference call. Everyone else has an opinion on it, how about you? :-)

John Hempton said...

Its just patent war. If someone sues then Google (now with 9000 patents from Motorola) cross sues - and it all ends quietly.

The end game for the phone company is to (a) be run separately and (b) eventually to be spun out.


Anonymous said...

Did you try any of these?

It appears there are both Windows Media and Flash codecs for Ubuntu.


John Hempton said...

I said I had no trouble viewing it - it is just that people who should know better (and Google really should know better) let proprietary stuff get in the way of business.

$14 billion says they should know better.


Anonymous said...

It's funny and been an ongoing frustration for some time. Microsoft is the worst offender but at least with them you know that if you don't use IE/Windows/Office you will be screwed. With Google and other companies it's inconsistent.

My biggest concern about Google is their lack of product management and consumer experience. (This stands in great contrast to Apple of course.) Open source can be a powerful force but it has to work at a minimum and be a better experience to really succeed. So far Google hasn't been a very promising leader on that front.

James said...

Any thoughts on Daniel Loeb buying NOG?

John Hempton said...

James - read: summary

small positions in gold puts and Northern Oil & Gas puts.

Don Juan De Carlos said...

Research 2.0-
"but it has to work at a minimum and be a better experience to really succeed. So far Google hasn't been a very promising leader on that front."
Google Search, Google Mail, Google+, Google Maps, and a number of other services suggest that Google can provide a better experience. They aren't always perfect off the block (see Buzz) but they are indeed better as anyone who's compared GMail to the free web alternatives will attest.

$12.5 billion cash for a company with ~$3.5 billion cash makes a $9 billion acquisition for a company with $2.5 billion in tax loss ($6.5 billion now...), a stable of patents and that could and likely should be spun off in the future as a profitable entity as it is expected in Q4.

Now mind the Apple + Microsoft consortia paid $4 billion for some 6,000 dead patents alone and this doesn't look nearly so insane as long as Google can keep Motorola from bleeding to death again immediately. Which they likely can.

Anonymous said...

"Its just patent war."

It's far more than that, they got a COMPANY dealing with some of the latest technologies for which they paid far less than it seems (see Don Juan's above post).

If it was just a patent war GOOGLE would have bought the nortel patents or would have at least put up a real fight with some real bids. They did not.

GOOGLE can get so much out of this thing, it's amazing to me that people just get caught on the patents.

You don't really expect that GOOGLE would reveal all in their presentation, do you? That just wouldn't be google or doing smart business...

MS and Apple better turn up the speed on their fans, the sh*t is coming their way, be it mobile, IP TV or who knows what.

Anonymous said...

"The end game for the phone company is to (a) be run separately and (b) eventually to be spun out"

Could you please explain why you think that this is the case?

I used to be incredibly bullish on GOOG. I am still optimistic, but this purchase has me worried that the company is going to be competing with companies it depends on for selling Android products. In fact, at the moment I'm struggling to even figure out how to guess at future cash flow.

On a side note, it's somewhat insane that all these tech companies are spending so much money for what amounts to the legal right to frivolously sue each other. Surely there are better ways for a country to allocate its resources than to pay tens of billions on companies so that you have the right to spend hundreds of millions on lawyers to sue based on the work of some engineers who are making five or very low six figures?

Why would anybody want to be an engineer? All the money resides in every part of the chain except for actually coming up with products.

Anonymous said...

I stopped using Ubuntu when I installed it and the first question was "please select your x-server".

jimmy james said...

In other news, Longtop is trading again! Covered at a buck a share. That's one of the better trades of my life, and I have you to thank for making the bear case. Cheers Hempton!

Scott said...

If you want a dead easy way to get Ubuntu dual booted on your Windows box, check out Wubi.

Using this, your grandmother could get Ubuntu running.

Investment Banking Jobs said...

I do wonder where all these patent acquisition strategies are going to lead us. Google's is the latest but there has been a long line of them including Facebook. Hopefully it is just a stand off - I think Google pretty much implied or stated it was the safeguard their position.

General disclaimer

The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Hempton. You should assume Mr. Hempton and his affiliates have positions in the securities discussed in this blog, and such beneficial ownership can create a conflict of interest regarding the objectivity of this blog. Statements in the blog are not guarantees of future performance and are subject to certain risks, uncertainties and other factors. Certain information in this blog concerning economic trends and performance is based on or derived from information provided by third-party sources. Mr. Hempton does not guarantee the accuracy of such information and has not independently verified the accuracy or completeness of such information or the assumptions on which such information is based. Such information may change after it is posted and Mr. Hempton is not obligated to, and may not, update it. The commentary in this blog in no way constitutes a solicitation of business, an offer of a security or a solicitation to purchase a security, or investment advice. In fact, it should not be relied upon in making investment decisions, ever. It is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author. In particular this blog is not directed for investment purposes at US Persons.