Feeds

MS patent claim redefines the Three Rs

Reading, writing and, er, royalties?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Although students and pupils who use computers show "sizeably and statistically significantly worse" maths and literacy skills than those who don't, an international survey reported last week, education has provided the tech lobby with a valuable gravy train over the years. A patent filed by Microsoft last week could be seen as a bid to claim some more for itself.

The patent application, which originated from Microsoft's Tablet PC group, is entitled "System and method for providing instructional feedback to a user", and it seeks to protect a wide range of interactive classroom activities. At its core, it claims that providing feedback from unstructured information is an invention. But the application has far broader uses, as the inventors note:

"The user's input information may be compared, or evaluated, to previous efforts, or to other user's efforts, in order to determine progress or relative performance in relation to others," which it can be argued, covers almost any kind of real-time performance monitoring including classroom tests and examinations.

The authors of the patent application, filed December but published on Thanksgiving Day, have such situations in mind:

"If a teacher, monitoring a student's input activity, realizes that a particular student may be in need of additional instructional feedback, the teacher might alter the parameters for generating instructional feedback for that student, as well as the type of instructional feedback, such that, for example, appropriate instructional feedback is provided more frequently and immediately (i.e., as soon as a mistake is detected)."

The validity of the patent application may hinge on interpretation of the word "unstructured input". The filing claims "unstructured input may take on many other forms, including, but not limited to, oral/audio responses and visually captured responses."

Microsoft has greatly accelerated its patent filing program this year, with 1,500 pending reviews, ranging from "knitwear modeling" to "Radio station buttons". However, as we noted when we discussed how Microsoft might use these, the explosion of filing activity doesn't necessarily correspond to an increase in creativity.

One of the patents filed in Thanksgiving week was by one Mr William Softky of Menlo Park. Readers with really good memories will recall that Mr Softky has never even worked for Microsoft: Redmond acquired the Intrinsa static code analysis tool which he helped develop, in 1999. This software has since been credited with "saving" the launch of the bug-riddled Windows 2000, which, while still bug-riddled, contained fewer fatal errors than it might otherwise have done. We trust that another gong is on its way.

Perhaps we can add a fourth 'R' to the current, known three of reading, writing and arithmetic. Royalties, anyone? ®

Related stories

Microsoft offshores patent war - so goes the WTO?
Linus and friends lead charge against software patents
Microsoft honours Linux programmer with patent gong

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Captain Kirk sets phaser to SLAUGHTER after trying new Facebook app
William Shatner less-than-impressed by Zuck's celebrity-only app
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.