A Conversation with Mark Radcliffe: Intellectual Property, Software Patents, and How Open-Source Software is Eating the World

API Economist: Is the reason why intellectual property and software are so challenging due to the sheer lack of case law that's been established?

Mark Radcliffe: I think that's part of it. But I also think you need to go back a little bit and talk about how software came to be covered by copyright. If you go back to the 1980s, there were very respectable intellectual property lawyers who would tell you that software was not copyrightable because it was a functional “work”.  Only certain types of software would be copyrightable. Moreover, when the Copyright Act of 1976 was enacted, Congress deferred the decision about protecting software under copyright until they received a report from a special committee, the National Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyrighted Works (CONTU). Although CONTU recommended protection for software under copyright, one commissioner suggested that copyright not apply to “computer program in the form in which it is capable of being used to control computer operations.”  Now the courts have made it very clear that software is protected by copyright, in fact almost any form of software is copyrightable. But copyright is actually a pretty poor fit for software. It's a poor fit because there's a large degree of functionality in software. Copyright was designed for music and literature and novels, things where you'd have immense scope in the choice of how you create the “work”.

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APIs Will Power Business Apps in the Cloud

API Economist: There are a lot of different cloud offerings out there. Why do we need yet another abstraction layer for automating business processes?

Steve Wood: That's an interesting question. With ManyWho, we're doing more than just automating business processes. We're thinking about business processes as applications. For example, Salesforce CRM represents a series of business processes in sales and in service and Exact Target in marketing. Both represent business processes embedded within those applications. Ultimately, much of the reason people use applications or build software is to automate or improve a process inside their business.

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Mundane IT Tasks Suck...Just Ask Jared Wray

 API Economist: Cloud adoption is clearly accelerating in the enterprise. What are some of the biggest challenges that you're seeing with the typical enterprise wanting to move to the cloud?

Jared Wray: We see really two major problems that come up in the enterprise. One problem is, how are they are going to be able to move their resources and actually take advantage of the elasticity of cloud or even the services that come along with cloud? The second problem is, how do they architect legacy applications or even mold them into a better, fully distributed type of system? Those two problems are common in enterprise, and really there haven’t been great solutions to this day.

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Anthropology Meets Mobile App Design

API Economist: The API Economist is very interested in your understanding and expertise of the smartphone market. What’s fascinating is that Apple is deriving the majority of profits from the iPhone. Yet Android devices surpass iPhones in total numbers. What does this mean?

Chia Hwu: Apple is very committed to their hardware platform. It's not going to go away anytime soon, because it’s where the company makes the most money, so Apple’s commitment to the iOS platform is in billions of dollars of revenue. On the other hand, Google, which doesn't make much money from Android, could decide to do things differently in a year or two. Google’s executives could decide, "We're not making any money on Android, so we're changing our mobile and now we're going in a new direction." That's one thing we think about at Qubop, since a mobile strategy should take into account how platform owners are making money.


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The Political Economics of Technology

 API Economist: When it comes to cloud computing, what’s the future of data sovereignty and the need for data to reside in-country?

Jonathan Murray: It all boils down to political economics. A very good friend of mine is Professor John Zysman at UC Berkeley. John's a political economist and he spends his life thinking about what's the intersection between government institutions, policy, regulation, and how economies develop. One of the things John told me very early on, when I first met him, was that you can look at the world in two ways: there's the potential of technology, where we can see this bright future and all the opportunity, and then there is the regulatory environment, social context, and the economic context that technology has to fit into. Ultimately, the pace at which technology is adopted and the degree to which technology is adopted is driven by both government regulation and cultural frameworks, and not by the desires and the interests of the technology industry.

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Javascript is the Glue of APIs

API Economist:  Congratulations on a successful APIdays San Francisco! You had a great turnout of experts.

Mehdi Medjaoui: Thank you! This was the first time there has been an API conference where all major API vendors contributed their experts as speakers. We had a good mix of experts not only representing start-ups such as Runscope but large companies such as Intel, SAP, and Salesforce. The API economy is vibrant. Every year that passes more APIs are being published and integrated into the apps, websites, and online services we use every day.

API Economist: You founded the first APIdays conference in Europe with events in Paris and Madrid. How did you get inspired?

Mehdi Medjaoui: It all started with our vision at Webshell to help make the glue of APIs that build the programmable web and the Internet operating system. We can make technology the glue but we also need the glue of humans behind the APIs in the real world because ultimately everything is human-powered. That was the inspiration to create an event to gather all of the API influencers and experts together to help advance the API economy. 

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What do LEGO and SpaceX have in common?

  API Economist: Historically, I've always thought of National Instrument as a hardware company, but you guys have been in software for a long time.

Jeff Meisel: Actually, out of the 35 years of our company history, for more than 25 of those we’ve had a heavy focus on our LabVIEW software, released in 1986.  LabVIEW is a graphical programming language which at the time was just available on the Mac, but essentially that kicked off a new era for the company. While some companies focused solely on hardware and others just focused on software, similar to what Apple does in the consumer space, the way we go about solving engineering applications is we believe there's tremendous value in delivering an integrated software and hardware approach.

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Allie Curry Loves Android

 API Economist: What are you seeing in the enterprise when it comes to iOS versus Android?

Allie Curry: We're still definitely seeing a whole lot of iOS. It always seems to be that the main priority is getting an iOS app out first, especially internally. If it's just an app, not a customer facing app, it seems to be more likely that an enterprise is going to be buying iPads for their own employees than they're going to be buying Android tablets. However, there has been a shift recently. Enterprises suddenly want to have an Android app after their iOS app. Some are even starting to look at Windows Phone, but a very, very small amount.

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Minding Your Own Business Just Got Easier

API Economist: Congratulations on launching your new API program at MYOB. What was the strategy behind this launch?

Paul Greenwell: We've had a developer program since 2002. However, as a desktop product, it was really about how to add on solutions and connect to our core accounting system. That was enabled through ODBC, and we've got about 500 active developer partners that actually use ODBC and write solutions that fit into a number of different spaces.

For example, we have a quarterly business activity statement that has to go into the tax department for tax purposes and is required for every small business. A lot of our business partners don't want to have to write and re-implement that. Over the past 20 years, a million businesses have been using our software.

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What Does a Developer Evangelist Do?

API Economist: What exactly does a developer evangelist do?

Samantha Ready: The way I would describe a developer evangelist is part thought leader and part explorer. On the one hand, we're trying to be on the cutting edge of what's new with the software product and how to use it, and also lead the community in ways that they should be doing development with the platform. It's a blend of taking our skills and then optimizing them for our expertise on the platform, and then also trying to get that information out to the community about how they can be successful on the platform.

When you think about the term "evangelist," often it's associated with religion. What religious evangelists do is they have some dogmatic practice that they want to proclaim to the masses. As developer evangelists, we are passionate about technology and the platform, and we're trying to advocate that to the developer community.

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