As Google appears to be retreating from China, Microsoft is talking up its chances in what will soon be the world’s biggest technology market.
It’s a bit of surprise given Microsoft’s steely attitude to piracy and licensing of its software and China’s inability (or unwillingness) to crack down on that piracy. Pirated versions of Windows and other Microsoft products are endemic in China – as they are for all software in the largely unregulated technology sector.
China also limits the number of Xbox-style gaming consoles that can be sold in the country and it’s attitude to web censorship and technology has thwarted some of the biggest Western names – from Yahoo to eBay.
Simon Leung, Microsoft’s Chief Executive for the China region has given a wide-ranging interview to the Wall Street Journal where he is bullish about Microsoft’s chances of succeeding where other tech giants have failed.
In response to questions about how they will square Bing’s SERPs with the censorship controls that Google found they couldn’t stomach, Leung says:
“We do two things. One is we support freedom of speech and expression. But we also respect each individual country's requirements. By the way, every country has some sort of requirement to censor.”
While they read like weasel words to me, I guess from a business looking to succeed where Google failed tickling the tummy of Beijing’s hardliners makes commercial sense. With Microsoft’s plans to get more Xbox’s into China (currently the number is limited because of fears that consoles will affect children’s exercise and social interaction) then cutting a deal allowing censorship of Bing might curry favour in that direction.
Personally, I think it reeks a little of naked business aggression. Microsoft would obviously love to sell millions of consoles in China and to stop the piracy of its software. Bing’s reputation is being offered on a platter in exchange for help from the regime. How cheery.
Not especially noble, but then you don’t get to be one of the world’s technology superpowers by quoting the universal declaration of human rights. We all know how hard Google has found it to “do no evil” on the road to world domination.