If you look around the world at the moment you will see anti-capitalist demonstrations everywhere. Here in the UK, the historic St Paul's Cathedral in London, which was built in 1677 and was the wedding venue for Diana, Princess of Wales is currently closed for the first time since the second world war because of protesters. Now primarily these people are protesting against the big banks and finance companies and the fact that 40% of the world's wealth is owned by the top 1% of earners.
I wanted to get a debate going here though on capitalism in technology, with particular reference to the ongoing patent wars. First some background. Technology companies are different from other big business in that they were generally started by visionary people, like Steve Jobs and Clive Sinclair, who wanted to change the world for the better. These people wanted to open up access to technology for everybody and largely they've done that. This means that the entire basis for the big modern technology companies hasn't been money and greed, it's been helping people gain access to new opportunities. This is something that sets technology companies apart from almost all of the rest of big business.
However the patent wars are getting in the way. No better is this highlighted than with the ongoing battles between Apple and Samsung, with the cupertino giant trying to ban, worldwide, sales of any Samsung product that looks remotely like an iPhone or iPad. These lawsuits, which cost money and therefore push up prices, also have the effect of limiting consumer choice. The best thing about the modern computing market that we have now is that there is more choice than ever before. There are more computing devices than ever before, more form-factors and more styles and colours than ever before.
Now it has emerged that some Windows 8 Metro app developers are concerned they may be targeted by a company called Lodsys for patent infringement of in-app billing. The patent wars have now got to such an extreme state where small, independent software houses now have to worry about it.
These patents are a big problem now because there are so many of them out there, all being owned or traded by multinationals, and there's no way to be sure that what you do hasn't already been patented by someone else. However, when you are creating a smartphone, a tablet or even an app, there are only so many ways to make it look, what size it will be or how certain features operate. When you take into account operating systems like iOS, Windows Phone and Windows 8 though that are trying to encourage app developers to make apps that look and operate in the same way the situation can only get worse.
Personally, I believe the the patent wars have now gone too far and the big players involved need to back off, stop focusing on the money and allow the innovation not only that people want, but that we all genuinely need. This can only create more competition, drive down prices and open technology up to more people, the way people like Steve Jobs originally intended for things to be. If we really want to create access to technology, access to the Internet and access to new opportunities, especially for the developing countries, we need to take this focus away from money now and go back to basics.
I'm very curious what your comments are about this as I feel you're all either going to agree strongly or you'll be completely polarised on the issue. Please leave your comments below, it's free, it's open and anybody can take part ;)Advertisement
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.