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Microsoft Considers Pulling Out of China 443

icefaerie writes to let us know that a senior executive for Microsoft has said the firm could pull out of non-democratic countries such as China. From the article: "Fred Tipson, senior policy counsel for the computer giant, said concerns over the repressive regime might force it to reconsider its business in China. 'Things are getting bad... and perhaps we have to look again at our presence there,' he told a conference in Athens."
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Microsoft Considers Pulling Out of China

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  • correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 02, 2006 @08:58AM (#16687083)
    s/non-democratic countries/countries where piracy is rampant/
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 1u3hr ( 530656 )
      One PR flack backed into a corner by human rights activists at a conference said they would "consider" pulling out. When he gets back to Redmond he'll be in deep shit.
    • The real reason (Score:4, Interesting)

      by doodlebumm ( 915920 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @10:58AM (#16688497)

      If they say they will pull out, it is more that they are going to put pressure on the Chinese (and other governments) to crack down on piracy. If the governments think that they will be unable to easily get what they want from Microsoft, maybe they will crack down on the pirates.

      Personally I hope it backfires and China ends up with 100,000,000 computers running Linux. I wonder how that would affect the perceived "market share" held by Microsoft. And think of all the applications that would be made available on Linux. Sweet!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by freeze128 ( 544774 )
        And think of all the applications that would be made available on Linux. Sweet!
        Yeah, but the documentation would SUCK!
      • I don't think (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tacokill ( 531275 )
        I don't think you want Linux to be associated with China as your "marketing plan" to get people to switch.

        Perception is not always the same as reality. So to the layman, if Linux = China - he'll stay away because he doesn't want a "Chinese" version of Windows.

        Sad, but this is the level of understanding you are dealing with.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Simon ( 815 )
      s/non-democratic countries/countries where piracy is rampant/

      That's a bit harsh don't you think? After all China has taken great strides to help reduce the use of illegal software. The Chinese government is even sponsoring development of a Chinese linux distribution, Red Flag Linux [wikipedia.org]. I'm surprised that Microsoft isn't applauding and encouraging these anti-piracy efforts. Think of all of the millions of dollars Microsoft will no longer lose each year to the pirates. ;-)


    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PsychicX ( 866028 )
      This article is about MSN and blogs and the like, not their software business. They're considering turning off all of the MSN services to China, rather than succumbing and doing filtering as the government pleases (looking at you Google), and rather than turning over bloggers to the government (looking at you Yahoo).

      They know perfectly well they don't any significant software revenue in China, and they're at least open about it inside the company.
  • Ethics (Score:3, Funny)

    by Kell Bengal ( 711123 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @08:59AM (#16687091)
    When Microsoft leads the way in business ethics ahead of a company with a motto of "Don't be evil", I know it's time ot look for aerial pork.
    • To defend Google, it's not clear that making a principled stand ("We're leaving China because you're fascist commie pigs!) actually benefits the citizens of the country in question. Namely, wouldn't it be worse to have no google than a filtered google?
      • Hey those guys outnumber me 3 to 1, so I may as well join them in robbing and beating up that guy since it won't benefit him or ME for me to resist. At least if I join them, I benefit.
    • I know it's time ot look for aerial pork.

      Going to join the Mile High club [milehighclub.com] eh? I've never understood the appeal, but each to his own.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by z0idberg ( 888892 )
      Talk is cheap.

      A one-liner from a senior policy counsel isn't exactly a firm commitment.
  • Commercial rasons? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by muttoj ( 572791 )
    M$ is a commercial entity. If they decide to pull out of a market there must be an other reason then the politics stated above.

    My guess: M$ cannot sue chinese citizens if they use an illegal copy.
    • Or the good image it generates will help their sales elsewhere. There's always more than just the direct way to make money.
      • China has a billion Chinese getting ready to buy a computer. Would you turn away a billion customers to gain a few million more? even if half are running illegal copies, that's still many times more than you can find elsewhere.
        • by Bert64 ( 520050 )
          The same thing will happen as it does in every other country that MS doesn't directly do business with.
          Another country will act as go-between, while many people in the country will simply use pirated copies anyway.
    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )
      Perhaps it's just too much of a legal liability for Microsoft.
      What if the Chinese government decides to start sueing Microsoft for whatever reason it choses, and forces them to pay huge fines or do things that hurt their business practices, like being forced to publically open up source code. If they have a legal pressence at that time, they might well be forced (physically) into complying.
    • Well one commercial entity could have ethical reasons to pull out of China. But Microsoft could first start showing ethical behaviour with its users, providing the best user experience instead of forcing them through their usual "patch for holes-get new version- migrate outdated formats- get new hardware" that used to be the norm until linux scared them into making decent software. And they could also show ethics towards the competition it unfairly crushed according to the lawsuits brought.

      Only then i'll be
  • by Lurker2288 ( 995635 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @09:00AM (#16687113)
    Microsoft, when will you learn? Pulling out is NOT a reliable precaution. It's almost as bad as counting business cycles.
    • by ettlz ( 639203 )
      Microsoft, when will you learn? Pulling out is NOT a reliable precaution.

      Ahh — now I understand the objections Symantec et al. hold towards Vista's new kernel security policies.

  • For a company with business practicess like MSFT this has got to be some kind of PR stunt
    • by Erwos ( 553607 )
      Last time I checked, Microsoft engaged in monopolistic behavior. China is engaged in wholesale, widespread human rights abuses that make Gitmo look downright tame. Equating the two as basically the same level of evil is not only wrong, but it's insulting.
      • Learn to read, I never said they were the same level of reading.

        What I said was that I find it surprising for a company like microsoft ditching one of the biggest growing world markets.
        • by Slithe ( 894946 )
          Learn to read, I never said they were the same level of reading.
          Learn to write. What do Microsoft's and China's literacy rates have to do with anything?
      • Thank you. Why is it that on Slashdot that Microsoft and the US are always considered the most evil anybody can ever be?

        • by mgblst ( 80109 )
          Why is it that on Slashdot that Microsoft and the US are always considered the most evil anybody can ever be?
          When will you people stop spouting this rubbish? Slashdot is a bunch of people with different beliefs and opinions. Even you, Microsoft shill that you appear to be, are a part of Slashdot. Do you consider this to be true? If you really want to make a difference, then argue a particular point.
      • by Bert64 ( 520050 )
        China is in a position to commit human rights abuses, microsoft is not... who's to say they wouldn't if they were in a position to do so?

        On the other hand, microsoft is very guilty of taking away people's freedoms, by using proprietary apis, formats and protocols to force people to continue using their products.
        There have been many people far more evil than Adolf Hitler, just that these people never achieved the same level of power that he did.
        • Yeah and you know what, I have no power but who's to say I wouldn't brutally maim and murder random people around me while strangling kitten and raping goat puppies?
          What's your point? Do you even have one? Nobody cares if Adolf's young brother was even worse than the real thing, if he didn't kill anybody, he didn't - end of the story. China regularly kills people, MS does not. Get your priorities right.
    • by griffjon ( 14945 )
      China is simply too large of a rapidly emerging market for MS to walk away. That being said, I hope they do.
  • Seriously though (and no, I don't mean to flame...) this is a good step. If more leading companies do this then maybe some sort of pressure can be applied. Unfortunately, if this doesn't apply to other large firms (i.e. Google) then this may be a huge market loss for Microsoft.

    If Microsoft moves by itself, it opens up a huge consumer market to alternatives like Linux on the desktop and solidifies Google as a market leader in the webspace. People may argue that this is good (more Linux adoption etc) but is t
  • by nnnneedles ( 216864 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @09:03AM (#16687139)
    Everyone who thinks this won't happen, mod me up.

    Thank you.

    • by Fred_A ( 10934 )
      OOps, sorry, I thought you said "raise your hand".
    • And everyone else mod him down!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mark-t ( 151149 )
      That, sir, may just qualify as the most unabashedly shameless example of karma whoring I have ever been party to witness here or any other place that uses similar moderation processes. Were there a plaque or trophy for such an accomplishment you would certainly receive my vote for recieving it. Well done!
  • leverage (Score:5, Insightful)

    by orbitalia ( 470425 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @09:05AM (#16687157) Homepage
    They are just looking for some leverage to influence China to update its anti piracy laws.
    • by javilon ( 99157 )
      It could backfire. Chinese don't like being told off. I think they are actually trying to get rid of Microsoft as much as they can.

      With the WGA (Windows genuine advantage) ramping up, we are getting to a situation in which the administrator of WGA in the USA can, with the flip of a switch, stop the economy of any country that relies too much in Windows. I think that is the reason China is pushing Linux so much. Windows is a liability to their national security.

      If you think this is exaggerated, just think ab
  • Really, I don't know why any US companies can do business with China. China does terrible, horrible things to their people. We're talking on par with Cuba, Iraq, and many rogue African and S. American countries. Yet for some reason we seem to turn a blind eye to it. I've never understood it. I'm sure it's all political because the US couldn't survive as a country without China. It's easy to say no to cuba, it's much more difficult to say no to a country which supplies over 90% of our furniture and large chu
    • Really, I don't know why any US companies can do business with China.

      Initially, greed. For those competing against them, necessity.

      China does terrible, horrible things to their people. We're talking on par with Cuba, Iraq, and many rogue African and S. American countries. Yet for some reason we seem to turn a blind eye to it. I've never understood it.

      Because there is no immediately visible consequence to saving 50% on items made in China versus elsewhere apart from the immediate savings to that person. The
      • by Shihar ( 153932 )
        It could be stopped, and pressure applied, if people voted for representatives to create laws to apply some sort of penalty for buying from such regimes. No such laws have been created. Says a lot about the representatives and the people voting for them, doesn't it?

        You don't even need to be so extreme as to be a single issue voter. A simple consumer boycott would do wonders. True, you can't possibly hit EVERY company, but you could hit enough to make a difference. The idea isn't so much knock out every s
        • by ajs318 ( 655362 )
          That won't work either, because there's no real choice for consumers anymore: in some market sectors, everything is Made In China. The Western Working Class -- you know, the ones whose jobs have been sold off to the lowest bidder -- are powerless to do anything about this. For once in the course of history, our Labour has no Value to the Ruling Class.

          The only way it could work is if a rich country -- or group of countries -- decided to impose import restrictions like "goods must be manufactured under c
    • by Aladrin ( 926209 )
      So you're very careful to make sure the products you buy don't come from China, "Cuba, Iraq, and many rogue African and S. American countries"? No? You still buy that stuff?

      I think you have your answer "why any US companies can do business with China".

      Even if someone you ARE this amazing saint... Very few other people are willing to follow your lead. If they were, the whole 'Walmart if killing America' movement would catch on better.
    • Economics:
      1) Cheap Labor
      2) Large Market
      It's as simple as that.
    • "Really, I don't know why any US companies can do business with China."

      Few US companies do business with "China".

      US companies -- groups of individuals -- engage in beneficial trade with other individuals in China. How evil the Chinese and US governments may be has no bearing on the right of two individuals to carry out their own private business.

      If you're saying it's ridiculous for the US government to use violence against its own citizens to keep them from doing business with Cuban people, and not use that
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Pharmboy ( 216950 )
      I'm sure it's all political because the US couldn't survive as a country without China.

      I would certainly argue that point. If you are referring to "cheap labor", then we would probably be BETTER OFF without China, and instead put resources into Mexico, at least in the mid to long term. At least if we moved jobs to Mexico, it may slow down illegal immigration as there would be more jobs. Transportation of goods would also be cheaper, and Mexico has a tremendous amount of natural resources. Moving labor t
      • Ah - but China doesn't have drug gangs murdering police chiefs, and the entire force on the take. That, and rampant corruption, are why my company does business in China rather than in Mexico. The Chinese are corrupt as well, but consistently corrupt - in other words, you can plan for it, and it won't cost you very much. A friend of mine just got a zoning variance from the fire marshal for four cartons of Chung Hwa cigarettes.

        There is also the imperialism factor. The USA would encounter problems in Me

    • by TheWart ( 700842 )
      Well, I am not going to try and defend the companies who work in China, but I know people make the following argument (I heard this a lot whil I was over in France, for example, and I am sure people use it all the time in the US):

      Basically, it states that by actually doing business with China, countries can apply subtle, yet critical, pressure on the government to open up over time. They claim that by allowing China to take advantage of the free market, it has moved them away from a strict communist re
    • we could survive without china... well we could have...

      But business has traded morals and ethics for profit.

      We are all in trouble in the long run.
    • Really, I don't know why any US companies can do business with China.

      I'm going to take a stab in the dark and say "money".

      They have the largest population of any country in the world, and they are rapidly developing (at least in industry if not socially, although that seems to be slowly happening as well).

      So cheap labor, over a billion potential customers, and and a stable (albeit evil) government.

    • Would you be as kind as to point to some examples of what you call "Rogue" South American countries?
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )
      Want to know how? they do business with Taiwan... ignoring that it's china and many china businesses have outlets there to get around the little bit of morals businessmen in America may have.

      "WE cant do business with china! they are evil! now how about raiding the retirement funds and how can we fire employees before they retire?"

      They worship the almighty dollar. anything, and I mean ANYTHING to make the books look good is all that matters to them.
    • by lawpoop ( 604919 )
      "I'm sure it's all political because the US couldn't survive as a country without China."

      That's right. They make tons of our stuff, and loan us tons of money.

      The USSR said that they would sell us the rope that we would hang ourselves with. We outlasted them. The Chinese now have adopted free-market principles, and apparently they our now selling us rope.
    • by Aceticon ( 140883 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @10:35AM (#16688199)
      I vote that all US companies move out of any countries that hold prisioners for an indefinite period without a right to a fair trial, practice torture and/or bug their citizens phones without court orders .... oh wait...
  • For stories like this, perhaps the Gates pic should not have the borg hardware. De-assimilation, you know.
  • PR Stunt (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CDPatten ( 907182 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @09:08AM (#16687193) Homepage
    I'm usually on the other side defending MS, but this is clearly just a PR stunt. No company, including the slashdotter's holy Google & Apple, would pass up the chance to get at $1billion+ people. The chinese economy is just begining to ramp up, and they LOVE technology and the internet.

    I suspect they are just trying to get some good press...
  • If Microsoft does this, it will be for some other reason. I have a really hard time believing MS execs could get a rationale like "We're pulling out of this massive massive massive but largely untapped market because our bleeding hearts tell us to" past the shareholders.

    My money's on protecting their IP - not just piracy, as others have mentioned, but concerns about stuff like components of it being reverse engineered and incorporated into competing products.
    • Whatever is going to be reverse engineered will still be reverse engineered, with or without Microsoft's presence in China.
  • The reasons (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dystopian Rebel ( 714995 ) * on Thursday November 02, 2006 @09:10AM (#16687221) Journal
    "Your Honor, my client Microsoft seeks to cancel these contracts because we object to China's
    - lying
    - unfair practices
    - unprincipled use of its economic potential
    - painfully slow turnaround time for patching bugs

    Sorry, Your Honour... We can strike that last one from the record."
  • So I wonder what MS are trying to put pressure on China to do?

    They're a business, pulling out of China is bad business. They're bluffing. I wonder what they're trying to win. *yawn*

  • If MS pulls out of China, the PRC will simply declare (or act as though) copyright and trademark don't apply to companies that pull out. So each time MS releases a patch or new OS or new version of Office, someone will crack it right away for Chinese consumption.

    I don't really see how MS has much leverage here. MS could maybe have the U.S. govt. go to bat for them, but we're in such debt and military over-extension right now, and have so few friends around the world, that we're not in a particularly stron
  • They'll just move on to Linux... and not have to spend billions of dollars on the "Microsoft Tax".

    Besides, the Chinese government won't have to worry about malicious code coming from an American company (not that they did anyways since I doubt there's anything to fear).
  • by jjn1056 ( 85209 ) <jjn1056@y a h o o .com> on Thursday November 02, 2006 @09:30AM (#16687437) Homepage Journal
    This could mean so many things really.

    First of all there is the crazy piracy which costs them huge dollars and causes trouble since the pirated windows spread virii like crazy. Also there so much trouble enforcing contracts. When I was running my IT business people would constantly try to renegotiate the price AFTER the project was completed. A not small amount of time people would just not be able to pay. Forgot about taking them to court.

    Then legally you can't really know if you are breaking the law or not half the time. Usually if you are breaking the law come down to who you know. So it's hard for them to make project plans and then suddenly the gov't tells them they can't do something (after they spent millions).

    I know a guy working on a TV movie in China. They wrote this super tame script and had it checked by the gov't censor board. Then after spending several million dollars and months of effort the gov't decided they couldn't sell the movie, because it showed foreigners beating out local Chinese people. So this makes it hard to commit the big bucks in China, you get nervous that the gov't will suddenly make some arbitrary change and put you out of business.

    Yeah, it's sort of like this here in the US (and lately our gov't been closing the gap) but it's much much worse in China. Or maybe the foriegners all get the 'special' treatment, who knows? At least that is my experience, and I lived in China (all over) for a couple of years, and I have western friends there living in china as long as 12 years.

    So there might not be totally humanitarian reasons for this, although there certainly could be really bad stuff here that even MS doesn't want to be associated with.
    • by krell ( 896769 )
      "First of all there is the crazy piracy which costs them huge dollars"

      Can it be proven that Microsoft is losing anything? I mean, if these Chinese could not pirate Windows, Office, etc for free, how many of them would even consider paying for it?
  • Who cares?

    Microsoft aren't making any money out of China what with rampant copying. But the copying won't stop if they pull out. The Chinese will just make copies of independently-imported Microsoft software, and it'll be Business As Usual.

    There might be a small gain for Open Source, but it's kind of doubtful. "Not having to pay for it" isn't much of an advantage when you don't have to pay for anything else either.
  • No Chance (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jack Sombra ( 948340 )
    There is no chance of MS doing this, would be commercial suicide in the long term and would have the shareholders gunning for the heads of the MS board on a platter

    MS want something from China (probably better anti piracy laws/enforcement) and this is a a vague (and toothless) threat to try to get their way
  • When Google decides to create a censored google.cn, Slashdotters bend over backwards to toe the line and support Google's claims that doing business in China is kinda sorta less evil than ignoring them. Now that we have Microsoft actually looking to leave China, stating it is for the reasons that make us unhappy that Google is in China, and every post I've seen so far is trying to find the "real" reason.

    Maybe Microsoft is being two-faced, maybe they're not. Regardless, how about holding them to the same s
  • Given the negative press Google got for entering China, I am curious to see if it'll produce positive press for Microsoft.
    Gaahahaha... just kidding...

    Still though, some things to consider:

    - they say prosecution of bloggers can get bad enough so they can't provide services there: why though?
    - they say they don't plan filtering or selling products specifically to China: still though, short of Office and Windows, all their products target more specific crowds. I'm not sure why targeting a potentially huge mark
  • Who is repressive? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by galanom ( 1021665 )
    Strange, but I thought that it was the other way around.

    About Peace:
    When I read the [1], I thought that the US is the repressive state. After invading in so many countries (3 in 5 years!) it seems to my that it is the most aggressive nation ever. Causing more than 650.000 fatalities in a war just for oil, it is something that even Hitler or Roman emperors haven't done. Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction, admitted Bush. Terrorism threat has increased, according to CIA. US had more fatalities in
  • Waaaaahoooo there, back up there kiddos. Just kidding.
  • Much and all as I dislike the Chinese regime, I'm not sure that Microsoft refusing to do business with them would make a lick of difference. While it's wrong for Western countries to directly assist the regime in oppressing its opponents, pulling out because of a general objection to the regime is probably a rather pointless gesture. In any case, the best way to help China reach something more closely approximating a liberal democracy is probably to continue cooperating with them to make the place richer.
  • I would certainly be happy to see this happen. America is lead by sniveling cowards who stand by and watch while the world's most vile regimes crack down harder and harder on dissent, much less freedom, so it would be a boon to people around the world if American business would slap China (and other such regimes) with the sort of sanctions that our spineless leadership does not.
  • by smchris ( 464899 ) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @10:54AM (#16688437)
    Oh, great. More jobs going overseas.

    [This time next week we can only hope to see how wrong that statement is.]

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"