IT Weekly Middle East Newsletter 13th March 2005

One of the big problems facing an IT publication in the Middle East — or indeed any region — is what exactly is important for your readers? The simple answer is to say anything that will have an impact on your readers’ use of IT is of importance, but that answer is, frankly, as clear as mud.

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By  Peter Branton Published  March 13, 2005

Patent issues in Europe and US could impact here|~||~||~|One of the big problems facing an IT publication in the Middle East — or indeed any region — is what exactly is important for your readers? The simple answer is to say anything that will have an impact on your readers’ use of IT is of importance, but that answer is, frankly, as clear as mud. Does for instance, a US product release have an impact on Middle East IT users? Well, clearly it does if the product is going to be released here, but that’s not always immediately clear. Vendor representatives here in the region often don’t know for sure what products will be made available to them. Given the global market we live in today, then a solution which solves a major company need can always be acquired, even if the vendor in question doesn’t operate directly in the Middle East. So should readers be informed about products that aren’t available here but that they may want to be? And who decides if they may want them to be? Moving away from simple product releases, it’s even harder to say what trends will have an impact on IT users here. HP ousting Carly Fiorina last month may prove to have fairly minimal impact on its customers in the region: if her successor decides to keep the same strategies in place, what’s the difference? On the other hand, if said successor decides to make drastic changes to the product line-up, or move the company to a new area, then it’s essential that IT Weekly readers know about it. One story that IT Weekly has not so far addressed, but is of potential importance to IT Weekly readers, is the issue of software patents in Europe. Now for those of you who don’t know – and managed to stay interested past the phrase ‘the issue of software patents in Europe’ – the European Council last week adopted a software patent directive. The Computer Implemented Inventions Directive, to be precise. While the name of this piece of legislation sounds innocuous enough, it’s actually proving highly controversial. Demonstrations have been held in Europe and several countries in the European Union had attempted to have it rejected. Leading the attack has been a body called the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) which, as its name suggests, is against software patents on principle: it wants software to be open source. In the US as well, the issue of software patents is currently highly controversial, with a number of critics including such open source gurus as Linus Torvalds, founder of Linux, saying they prevent the innovation and development that open source software allows. “Are software patents useful? That’s pretty clearly not the case,” he said at a conference last month. “Software patents are clearly a problem.” But are software patents always a bad thing? When the SCO Group sued IBM over claims that Big Blue had taken technology from Unix and moved it to Linux, IBM responded by countersuing with three cases of patent infringement. IBM has also, along with other vendors such as Sun Microsystems, released hundreds of its own patents for use in open source software. Here in the Middle East, where piracy is still a far greater problem than the US or Europe, stronger intellectual property protection laws (and their enforcement) will help the development of a local software industry. This in turn could lead to the development of more Arabic content, benefiting the region’s IT users further. We would argue that software patents, always given the proviso that they are used fairly, are actually a good thing for the industry and that anything that helps their development should be encouraged. Even if it does happen somewhere else. ||**||

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