Microsoft's patent train continues, BMW now paying royalties

Microsoft has announced that it has signed a licensing agreement with BMW that will allow the German company to use Microsoft's exFAT technology in current and future products.

Why does BMW need to license this technology from Microsoft? BMW had the following to say below:

Gottfried Schmid, BMW project manager, CE-Device Connection, said that “with the support of the trend-setting file system exFAT, BMW is able to significantly increase the number of compatible CE devices and Mass Storage devices for our customers.”

exFAT is Microsoft's successor to the FAT hard drive storage system, except that exFAT has been created with flash-based memory in mind. Microsoft says that exFAT " ... expands the size of files that flash memory devices can handle by more than five times. It also greatly increases the speed with which those files can be accessed."

Microsoft has stated that since the launch of its IP licensing program, it has singed more than 1100 agreements and is continuously devloping programs to make it easier for third-parties to access the company's wide range of patents.

As always, terms of the agreement were not announced.

Source: Microsoft

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14 Comments

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Hello,

Interesting. SDXC cards come preformatted with exFAT from the manufacturer, so I'm guessing BMW wants to ensure compatibility with those in their cards. So, my take on this in-dash SD (or Micro SD) card slot, which could be used for everything from MP3s and video, to GPS, or even bringing apps into the car (e.g., let kids play while parents drive).

Regards,

Aryeh Goretsky

What the article does not mention, is Helmut Panke, former CEO of BMW is on the board of directors of Microsoft. So there is a strong link between the two, and a history of working together. If anyone would know when to use patents and to pay for them, it would be these two companies.

Makes sense, anytime I look at a deal that doesn't quite seem right this is often the case. Now the article is more interesting.

yowanvista said,
They could just have used Linux and ext4 to avoid all this patent nonsense..
Maybe it isn't fast enough? What about compatibility issues?

TechieXP said,
Maybe it isn't fast enough? What about compatibility issues?

Speed is not an issue, ext4 works just fine with Linux on flash drives, even Btrfs (though experimental) would the job perfectly.

yowanvista said,
They could just have used Linux and ext4 to avoid all this patent nonsense..

Maybe they don't want to use Linux or ext4... maybe they want the compatibility of exFat. I'm sure the engineers at IBM, would use Linux and whatever FS if it benefitted them more than exFat. I'm pretty sure those guys knows more about the stuff they do than you or I.

HawkMan said,

Maybe they don't want to use Linux or ext4... maybe they want the compatibility of exFat. I'm sure the engineers at IBM, would use Linux and whatever FS if it benefitted them more than exFat. I'm pretty sure those guys knows more about the stuff they do than you or I.


Spot on. It's entirely about compatibility. Compatibility means more options, and more options mean BMW saves money in production.

This is a case of 'tiers of competition'. People can get caught up at the file system tier and think the whole game is about competing file systems, but there's this whole other tier about the components that will use them, and far more competition is taking place there.

And remember, 99% of people have no idea what the hell a file system is. They don't care.

No they can't.

https://bugzilla.kernel.org/show_bug.cgi?id=15875

VFAT becomes less of an option for many hardware producers and many of them
will be glad to embrace ext2/ext3/ext4 filesystems but they have an inherent
problem, they enforce POSIX ACLs.

So, imagine a situation when Peter who has UID=63555 (he's in a corporate
network and that's his real UID according to LDAP) formats his flash drive
using ext2/ext3/ext4 filesystem, then uses sudo to recursively chown the whole
filesystem for his own possession.

Now, Peter comes to a less savvy Alice who wasn't given root permissions on her
PC and she tries to open Peter's flash stick. Oops, Alice cannot open or read
any file on it. I can come up with ten other different scenarios when ACLs are
superfluous.

Taking this situation into consideration it becomes clear that ACL's for
removable storage is more a hassle than a security feature.

So, I strongly suggest implementing a flag which tells the kernel to disregard
all file/directory permissions on the aforementioned FS's.

In addition to compatibility, keep in mind that Linux itself is in breach of dozens of Microsoft patents. Microsoft has never prosecuted these patents in the server or desktop sectors. However, they are perfectly entitled to do so in the IVI sector, and may have pressed that button.

Yes, but ext4 and Btrfs do not work on Windows, which is used by at least 80% of the computing world. exFAT is compatible with all Windows PCs (XP and higher), as well as OSX (Snow Leopard and higher) and the most popular Linux distros. It's also supported by many modern media devices.