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Microsoft

Microsoft's Big Stick in Peru 597

Posted by michael
from the left-hand,-meet-the-right-hand dept.
An anonymous reader points out a Wired story on the continuing Peru saga. In this latest episode, Wired notes that the U.S. Ambassador to Peru has chimed in in support of Microsoft and in opposition to Dr. Villanueva's bill which would have mandated open source software be used by the Peruvian government. On the one hand, sure, our diplomats have a national goal of promoting U.S. enterprise, but do we have to promote companies which we are simultaneously pursuing in court for numerous violations of our laws? Isn't that a bit counter-productive?
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Microsoft's Big Stick in Peru

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  • hm (Score:4, Funny)

    by zapfie (560589) on Saturday July 27, 2002 @06:10PM (#3965486)
    For some reason, I read that as "Microsoft pig stuck in Peru." I got very confused..
  • by Raul654 (453029) on Saturday July 27, 2002 @06:13PM (#3965494) Homepage
    (Sorry if this is a tad offtopic, but...)
    The more I hear about stories like these, the more I think we need campaign finiance reform. Think how much more productive and progressive our laws would be if our senators weren't owned by companies. The problem I see with my fellow americans is that we tend to be, for lack of a better word, shallow. For most, memory of things political is only a few months at best. Further, yes, occasionally you get something like CBDTBA (or whatever it was named) that cause outrage, but the underlying problem - that most congressmen are owned my big cooperations (particularly republican, but democrats aren't immune either) - is the one that never gets solved.
    • by greenguy (162630) <estebandido AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday July 27, 2002 @06:28PM (#3965539) Homepage Journal
      That's why there's a Green Party. We accept no corporate money. That keeps us focused on the things the US really needs: renewable energy, taxes on "bads," not goods, an end to overseas military bases, a government that sees people as citizens, not consumers (and increasingly, prisoners), and so on. For more info, see http://www.greenpartyus.org, or for the Platform, http://www.gp.org.

      To veer this back on-topic, I should mention that there is a movement within the Greens to include a detailed plank on software rights and DRM in the next major release of our platform.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        and that's why you'll never win an election...;)
      • That's also why there are libertarians [slashdot.org], who share many beliefs with the green party. That said, if more people started voting independent, I'm still unsure as to whether or not that would be a good thing. -9mm-
    • The problem with campaign finance reform is similar to the problem with Peru passing this bill. Doing either limits the free market, limiting the ability to have free choice of which software or politicians to buy. Only by having a natural 'ecosystem' of software and politicians, having proprietary corporations being the top carnovires in each, can we be as great and proud as the USA.

      </sarcasm>

      • Why not this:
        Set up a system where every dollar accumulated by candidates has to be accounted for (this already exists). The only acceptable sources of money are private citizens living in that person's district (for a house rep) or state (for a senator) or the candidates own pocket. No more donations from the party, which is primarily what causes the problems. This would effectively a lot of the money out of politics. To offset this, increase federal matching funds to 3x, 4x, or 5x instead of 2x - this would encourage people to follow abide by the rules restricting those matching funds (which include donation limits per person)
        • The only acceptable sources of money are private citizens living in that person's district (for a house rep) or state (for a senator) or the candidates own pocket.

          Unworkable and unconstitutional. You can't stop people from expressing political viewpoints without stomping all over the 1st Amendment. The real problem is that the federal government has grown so large and powerful that it is profitable for corporations to lobby for laws to benefit them or punish competitors. If the government would actually limit itself to its Consitutional duties, this problem would go away.

          To offset this, increase federal matching funds to 3x, 4x, or 5x instead of 2x

          To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation

          of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical. -Thomas Jefferson
          • 1) Who says it's unconstitional to ban donating money to congressmen who do not represent you?
            2) As far as the matching funds, they are already exist. That's the camel's nose, so to speak. I am just saying it should be extended, for the reason of making sure representatives represent the members of their district, and not cooperations, particularly those in far off states.
          • Unworkable and unconstitutional. You can't stop people from expressing political viewpoints without stomping all over the 1st Amendment.

            But you can make it illegal for someone running for office to accept such funds, or condone the actions of a group in support of their election that is not a part of their constituency. And we can *easily* make it illegal for the political parties (which are allready fairly regulated) to have anything to do with "soft" money at all.

            The first amendment doesn't cover every thing that you might do that's "expressive." A heck of a lot of it, but not *everything.*

            To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation
            of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical. -Thomas Jefferson


            Simple solution. Allow for one "soft pot" with unlimited contributions--and equal ratios of matching funds to everyone running for any election.

            It strikes me as conducive to tyranny and chilling to the discourse necessary to properly pick a leader to allow simply propagation of quiet forums to be our only way of electing a representative. It seems that an abatment of regular and ordinary rights so as to ensure a level and fair discoure between those vying for public office is a noble deed, which would ensure a fair and unfettered choice among those contestants for all citizens at the polls.

            Or in other words, it would be nice if public office wasn't limited to people with money and people who can cater to people with money. In the specific instance of an election, my words and views should be protected and ensured by law against being drowned out by the words and views of those with more wealth than I.

        • Why not this ...

          Why not this:
          Set up a system where the government doesn't have the power to arbitrarily fuck with every piggly aspect of your life, and maybe people won't be so interested in bribing politicians. You know, have private property really be private property; have free trade really be free trade.

    • Except that Ambassadors are appointed, and not elected in the US.
      • Yes, but since what he says reflects on this superiors (the Bush Whitehouse), and it is entirely within their discretion to fire him, I think it's a safe bet that his comments echo those of his superiors.
  • Great Plan (Score:5, Funny)

    by dnaumov (453672) on Saturday July 27, 2002 @06:14PM (#3965498)
    He added that by excluding proprietary software companies like Microsoft, Peru would be hurting an industry that "has the potential to create 15,000" jobs in the local economy.
    Yeah, that right ! Run MSFT products and you need to hire 15000 people to admin them. Sounds like a great plan to me !
    • M$ Not Excluded! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by webweave (94683)
      M$ is allowed to sell software if it fits the requirements of the government.

      M$ chooses not to comply to the requirements.

      This is the point. Sell what the customers wants, you can't force the customer to buy by your rules forever.

      I am reminded of Detroit in the 70s. The Big Three were saying "Buy what we make because its good for the country." and the customer finally shouted back "Build what we want, or we will look elsewhere"
  • Microsoft, of all companies, does not need any help from the government.

    The US has meddled in the affairs of Latin America innumerable times. This is just another example. The ambassador should be ashamed of himself.

  • I guess somebody should try to have the ambasador arrested for aiding and abetting.
  • ...this is wrong.

    Sure, it is our government's job to promote the US's interests, but Peru is right to stand up to the pressure.
    Paying for software should take a back seat to paying for water and electricity.
    I think mandating Open Source is a bit much, but maybe that's what they have to do to keep their departments from deviating.
    I own and run MS products (Win2K, Win2K Server, XP Home, XP Pro, SQL Server 7.0, VB Studio 6.0, etc.) I like them. I haven't had any real pain from them. But I couldn't go buy them today. If I was Peru I'd want Free Software.
    But that's not what this is about. Peru didn't mandate Linux. They simply said all software must come with source, which effectively cuts out MS. It's an implicit endorsement of Open Source, but not an explicit one.

    • It is an explicit endorsement of Open Source. MS is perfectly welcome to compete under the law, they just have to stop being whiny bitches and open their source code to public scrutiny. There is no requirement (AFAIK) that it be under an official open source license, so they can use their own "look but don't touch" style license if they want to.

      The object of the bill is not necessarily to save money, it is to ensure the integrity and security of government data and prevent proprietary file format lock-in.

  • Pay up! (Score:3, Funny)

    by chalsall (185) on Saturday July 27, 2002 @06:26PM (#3965533) Homepage
    Come on Peru, be a good little third-world country, and pay your Windows tax. How can the US economy hope to recover if M$ doesn't have additional markets to rape?

    And you wouldn't want to risk those potential 15,000 jobs, now would you? No matter that any real employment will be exported to the US. No, don't bother thinking about that...

    We're in sad, sad times.

  • by Dr. Awktagon (233360) on Saturday July 27, 2002 @06:27PM (#3965536) Homepage

    In his June letter, Hamilton said that while the United States doesn't oppose the development of open-source software, it prefers to support a free market where the quality of the product can determine the issue.

    This makes no sense, on many levels! First of all, any company can supply open-source software. In no way does this create any barrier to any company. Even Microsoft can submit software for this purpose.

    To me this quote is the same as: "Hamilton said that while the United States doesn't oppose the development of green army tanks, it prefers to support a free market where the quality of the product can determine the color." Makes no sense! Anyone can write open-source software.

    Microsoft is a monopoly, an illegal one at that, so hearing them talk about free markets is damn funny.

    On another level, open-source software is closer to a situation where there are no copyrights, in other words, a true free market. Copyright monopolies are exactly that, monopolies. If you need your software serviced, you have to call exactly one company for permission (or even to have the work done). You have more freedom with open-source than proprietary software. Governments should be supporting freedom!

    Of course, I'm not surprised. Microsoft did the same thing in Mexico. Free markets, my ass. Microsoft is just buying their way in and taking advantage of poorer countries.

    • MS isn't the first US corp to complain about "unfair" trading terms imposed by foreign governments. Take the beef row with Europe. Europe maintains that any US concern can ship beef to Europe, providing it meets European standards - basically that the level of growth hormone in the meat is below a certain level. So this is free trade, anyone can produce goods to the spec. The problem is that in the US nobody produces beef without growth hormones. So no beef goes from the US to Europe.

      Similarly, MS could produce "open" software for use in Peru in order to compete in the free market according to local regulations. That would mean a big shift in its own practices which it is not prepared to make. I have some sympathy for the MS position. Remember the bit in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy where Arthur Dent is told he had free access to the plans to demolish the Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass. That is, if he can get to Alpha Centauri, get into the basement of the planning office, break open a locked safe etc.

      But I'm still not eating American beef.
    • by twitter (104583) on Saturday July 27, 2002 @08:35PM (#3965925) Homepage Journal
      Let me quote it again, along with the follower. I'd like to quote it all, as not one sentence lacks scandal.

      n his June letter, Hamilton said that while the United States doesn't oppose the development of open-source software, it prefers to support a free market where the quality of the product can determine the issue.

      He added that by excluding proprietary software companies like Microsoft, Peru would be hurting an industry that "has the potential to create 15,000" jobs in the local economy.

      Well, what makes Hamilton (what an ironic name!) think that Peru has not made up it's mind about the quality of the software? I certianly have.

      More, how is a GOVERNMENT spec for software purchases going to interfere with private purchases of software. What kind of "free market" is there in goverenment puchasing to begin with.

      One more thing, who says that free software won't create jobs? It seems to me that free software has made more jobs here in the US than any single company ever will. Witness sendmail, Apatche, BSD, Linux, and others. What do Sun, Microsoft, HP, Compaq, IBM and other silly spellings have to compare to the thousands of jobs out there tending email, websites, company accounts and what not? Free software can do anything comercial software can and usualy does it better.

      I'm disgraced. Our ambasador is meddling in an internal purchasing matter for reasons that don't make sense on their face for the sake of a few US companies. The decision is neither in the best intrests of the US as a whole nor even philisophicaly consistent. As Bill Gates goes in to buy government officials, our Government will be smeared with the corruption. Who will respect our wishes or opinions when we are so frivolous with them?

  • Ok as much as some people are going to hate this point of view, but I think it is ok for the American Ambassador to talk to the Peruvian government. But and this is where I think the ambassador went over the line, the ambassador should not have an opinion. The ambassador represents a country and yes Microsoft belongs to a specific country. Hence it is the job of the ambassador to help Microsoft. But I think only insofar to open doors so that Microsoft can talk to the right people. Likewise the ambassador should do the same if Richard Stallman were to have an opinion and what to express it to the Peruvian government. Richard Stallman is an American and has as much right as Microsoft.

    But sadly this American Administration is more interested in serving big business and not the people. Was that to be expected? Yes after Bush received 350 million in support what else could you expect? Talk about "Indulgence"!!!
  • by jvmatthe (116058) on Saturday July 27, 2002 @06:37PM (#3965570) Homepage
    Why is a government official stumping for the interests of a single company? Yeah, they can play it off as if they were talking about a whole industry, but it is obvious that there is really only one company with real political and money interests that is making waves here.

    It used to be that the U.S. was known for promoting freedom, in the guise of democracy and free markets, to other countries. Now, we have our diplomats promoting to keep those same countries in the grasp of a predatory monopolist that we ourselves convicted.

    They can say they're not against free software all they want, but the industry they're promoting is not one that is known for giving freedoms to its users and it one that is clearly afraid of the true freedom that free software can give.

    • by akb (39826) on Saturday July 27, 2002 @08:04PM (#3965834)
      Why is a government official stumping for the interests of a single company? ... It used to be that the U.S. was known for promoting freedom, in the guise of democracy and free markets, to other countries.

      When was this? Maybe before the US backed execution of Allende in Argentina to the great benefit of ITT [ucsb.edu] but after installing a friendly dictator for United Fruit (Chiquita) in Guatemala?

      Those are the examples that come to mind that combine both the stumping for single companies and the deaths of thousands of people instead of promoting freedom, the world is littered with more.

      A recent gem in the stumping for individual companies department that comes to mind is the Bush administration putting pressure on India for an Enron power plant [consortiumnews.com].

      I think you need to read some more history.
  • [...] but do we have to promote companies which we are simultaneously pursuing in court for numerous violations of our laws?

    This isn't a very good argument, at least on its face. If you were being unfairly imprisioned in another country, it wouldn't be right for the US State Department to refuse to help you because you had unresolved legal problems back in the US (asuming you're not a fugitive). It might undermine their ability to help you, but the State department's job is to look out for US interests in other countries, not to apply self interpreted legal punishment on people and corperations.

    This is a teeny tiny favor compared to the lenient settlement they got from the Justice Department.

  • Nice perspective (Score:3, Interesting)

    by quantaman (517394) on Saturday July 27, 2002 @06:40PM (#3965581)
    Microsoft apparently enlisted the American ambassador in Lima to help try and convince the Peruvians to kill the legislation.

    I don't think I could put it much more accuratly than that!
  • Compared to what shell corp has done in Africa, Microsoft selling their product in another country is nothing. They are still in court, and can continue as they wish outside of the US or inside the US until the courts say otherwise.
  • The Sad Truth (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WEFUNK (471506) on Saturday July 27, 2002 @06:43PM (#3965597) Homepage
    On the one hand, sure, our diplomats have a national goal of promoting U.S. enterprise, but do we have to promote companies which we are simultaneously pursuing in court for numerous violations of our laws?

    Actually, these days I think this is a catch-22, if you want to promote U.S. enterprise, by definition you've pretty much gotta support the ones in court.

    Seriously, though, it would be hard to define such a standard (at least for big business) since large enough companies are almost always the target of some sort of litigation or investigation, many of which are small or without merit, and are simply a function of their size, history, numerous divisions, and the law of numbers when they employ thousands of individuals. I'm not going shed tears for big business, but even corporations should be considered innocent until proven guilty, and even for the guilty ones government officials should not seek to impose extra-legal restrictions and punishments beyond whatever punishments are decided in court (although as citizens and consumers we are always free to voice our opinion and deny them our business and government agencies should evaluate potential suppliers based on past conduct).

    That being said, the adoption of open source software abroad should have positive economic benefits to North America: with the bulk of open source developers based in the U.S. there is probably a quantifiable net benefit to skills and innovation as well as benefits to the many small businesses that rely on open source products and service for productivity gains and revenue. Politicians should be encouraged to promote this industry as well, especially with small business being the real lifeblood of the economy.
  • Convince? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Critical_ (25211)
    Knowing the United States less than honorable track record in Latin and South America, I find it almost funny the article would talk about a US Ambassador trying to "convine" Peru. What is the US going to do? Bomb them for not running Minesweeper and Solitare on their desktops? The irony of the situation is gigantic.

    For those who think the US has every right to pursue pushing its own companies, that's fine. But I would hope that we would push companies in compliance with our own laws. Regardless, I would still like to see Linux in Peru.
  • by Inexile2002 (540368) on Saturday July 27, 2002 @06:49PM (#3965616) Homepage Journal
    Maybe it's a nuance of translation from Spanish to English, but Mr. Villaneuva constantly refering to Bill Gates as "the Bill" was confusing. And I disagree with many of the things Villaneuva had to say about him.

    "The Bill does not introduce any discrimination whatever", "The Bill protects equality under the law", "The Bill makes it compulsory for all public bodies to use only free software" - As far as I know, Mr. Gates doesn't do any of these things, strange that the Peruvian government thinks so.
  • by Stephen VanDahm (88206) on Saturday July 27, 2002 @06:58PM (#3965645) Homepage
    Have any of you read the Foundation trilogy by Issac Asimov? Its about a politically weak, but technologically superior planet whose government (the Foundation) grows to where it rules a galactic empire towards the end of the series. Early on, though, the (still weak) Foundation is threatened by warlords with a less developed society but a superior military. The Foundation bargains for its freedom by giving the warlords all sorts of technology. Then, after the bad guys grow to depend on the technology, the Foundation flips the "off" switch, and the Warlords become the Foundation's bitches.

    I'm an American, and I don't want to sound disloyal or anything (especially when Ashcroft's jackbooted thugs could be reading this...oops did I say that?), but I think that nations should search for indiginous solutions to their problems -- especially for something as important as a national IT infrastructure. Suppose the United States or Microsoft threatens to flip the "off" switch on Peru? A nation should not endanger its autonomy without a good reason.

    It isn't always possible to avoid. Countries like Japan depend upon food imports. They can't grow enough to feed themselves, and they can't starve, so their stuck with that. However, Linux enables any country with the right vision to develop its own IT talent (and prevent a lot of money from leaking overseas) without much risk.

    Foreign trade is good but, whenever possible, nations should not become so dependent on foreign goods and services that they can't live without them.

    Steve
    • by javilon (99157) on Saturday July 27, 2002 @07:46PM (#3965773) Homepage
      Indeed,

      And with the new licencing plans from MS, where the operating system will be calling back home every now and then, it will be terribly easy to switch the off button. Much easier than right now.

      The new licensing system will create a situation where the person in control of the licence server at Microsofts headquarters will be able to virtually stop the economy of a country just by issuing a command.
  • Growing Industry (Score:4, Insightful)

    by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Saturday July 27, 2002 @07:01PM (#3965653)
    [U.S. Ambassador John Hamilton] added that by excluding proprietary software companies like Microsoft, Peru would be hurting an industry that "has the potential to create 15,000" jobs in the local economy.
    I'm kind of curious as to where this the 15k job figure comes from. Just what kind of jobs are we talking about? And how is Microsoft the only key to such jobs?

    An IT industry covers quite a spectrum of jobs. There are your lower-level technicians and support staff. There are higher-level system and network administrators. There are system architects who identify organization's need and designs an appropriate sytem from available components (or identies components needed). There are programmers who build those additional components.

    The only time any of these jobs require Microsoft is when the organization has already invested in Microsoft solutions. And even then - change will happen whether Microsoft is used or not (witness the slow deprecation of many long-standing Novell networks and the migration from one version of Windows to another).

    If the Government of Peru invests heavily in a Linux or *BSD infrastructure, it will still have to hire a whole gambit of IT workers to support its environment. If the 15k job figure is correct then it will be 15k IT professionals with a background in Open Source systems and software.

  • by aoeu (532208) on Saturday July 27, 2002 @07:02PM (#3965659)
    IIRC Peru cited two other reasons for specifying open source software besides money. There is a real fear that closed file formats might prevent recovery of information. There is also the possibility of back doors. If there are any it is far more likely that the US has access to them than the Peruvian government. Don't get me wrong, money is a real issue but common defense is the first order of the state. Machiavelli was right.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 27, 2002 @07:05PM (#3965672)
    So is IBM. Why is Microsoft's position being singled out for support by the US public's representive in Peru?

    Requiring software to come with modifiable source code does not discriminate against any company. It should just be considered part of the specification that is desired from the software. Since pretty much all software has source code, it is only a business decision (like pricing, the color of the box, bundling, etc.) whether or not to release the source code with the binary code. As far as specs go, it is pretty easy to comply with. Easier than making a Spanish language set of documentation.

    I am amazed by the audacity of trying to dictate the specs that another country's agencies want to use in a call for software. If companies don't want to bid on it, they are free to hawk their wares elsewhere.

    What is next, opposition to countries that want documentation in their own peoples' languages instead of the Industry Standard (TM) American English?!?
  • If MS gets into the habit of heavy lobbing ( like in Germany [linuxtoday.com]) or even bribing goverments like seems to be happening in Peru and other countries is one thing. This is usual.

    But if the U.S.A goverment starts threatening other goverments about the use of Microsoft products, it will be a completely different thing, and, in my mind, self defeating.
    • Also, we have a situation where on one hand the U.S.A. goverment is using the WTO to pressure countries like China and Peru to pay for the pirated MS licences they run and on the other hand they are trying to force countries like Peru to use MS software.

      It is almost like a mafia selling protection.

      Ironic.
  • I think the US pressuring Peru, saying that Peru will make more money (boost their economy) by not passing this bill, I can't help but be reminded about Janis Ian's comment [janisian.com]:

    If a music industry executive claims I should agree with their agenda because it will make me more money, I put my hand on my wallet...and check it after they leave, just to make sure nothing's missing.

  • Numerous US companies support open source, and if open source is widely adopted in Peru the Peruvians will certainly be able to contribute a lot to the codebase used by US companies.

    So microsoft!=US in that case.
  • by teetam (584150) on Saturday July 27, 2002 @09:20PM (#3966035) Homepage
    I remember Miscrosoft advocating against US government use of open source software for "security" reasons. Its argument was since open software source is available to everyone, it was a security risk while MS products were safe because it was well-guarded in Redmond, WA.

    By this logic, does this not mean that other countries must NOT use MS products? After all, these countries will be letting their vital systems run on software will be known only to Americans!

  • freelinuxcd (Score:3, Informative)

    by GigsVT (208848) on Saturday July 27, 2002 @09:38PM (#3966075) Journal
    Free Linux CD [freelinuxcd.org] still could use a Peru affiliate. Interested parties should contact the maintainer on said page.
  • by CondeZer0 (158969) on Saturday July 27, 2002 @11:03PM (#3966339) Homepage
    The argument about the jobs is really so ridiculous that becomes funny:

    It would be like advocating to stop using trucks and any kind of machinery in agriculture and use horses and human power instead, that would create thousands, if not millions of jobs!

    <sarcasm>So, lets give up the industrial revolution and go back to the middle ages so we can create thousands of jobs!
    Let's stop using electricity, cars, planes, and computers all together! they all save jobs!</sarcasm> *sigh*

    Open source is a kind of revolution in the IT industry, of course many people will lose their jobs as consequence of it, but many more jobs will be created thanks to it, and many companies will improve how they work allowing them to expand and generate more jobs. Any new tool that helps companies get their jobs done with a minimum cost is good for the economy.

    Another of my favorite MS FUD is that the taxes for software are a good thing for the economy, oh well, so then is bad that companies save money? Lets duplicate taxes on software then! It will be even better! This also assumes that the money don't spent in MS software disappears in a black hole, I'm sorry, but it will be spent in more productive ways that will actually help the economy(and generate taxes) instead of just help MS economy.

    Disclaimer: I work for a non IT company as software developer and system administrator using only Open/Free Source software, the company is doing quite well, thanks to the use of OSS, among other things(like having a smart boss, hi Carl! ;)), and thanks to that, the company is expanding and generating even more jobs, profits and taxes.

    \\Uriel

"In the face of entropy and nothingness, you kind of have to pretend it's not there if you want to keep writing good code." -- Karl Lehenbauer

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