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Microsoft Attacks GNU/Linux in Asia Through the Government

Posted in Asia, Cablegate, FUD, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 11:21 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: Diplomats parrots Microsoft claims and biased ‘studies’ about “shareware” like Linux and why it is bad

IN the previous post we showed more of what Microsoft was doing in Vietnam, by proxy. In the following Cablegate cable we receive confirmation of what we knew Microsoft was doing behind closed doors all around Asia, especially whenever a government made the decision to move to GNU/Linux (famously in Thailand)

We are highlighting bits of interest in the diplomatic cable (for those who are not aware, the Business Software Alliance is a Microsoft front group):

State for EAP/BCLTV 
State pass to USTR Elena Bryan 
USDOC for 6500 and 4431/MAC/AP/OPB/VLC/HPPHO 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
1.  (U) With a software piracy rate estimated at 95 percent by the 
Business Software Alliance, there is no shortage of targets in 
Vietnam for IPR protection efforts.  Microsoft executives tell 
ConGen that it will focus on getting the GVN and multi-national 
corporations to use licensed software.  Microsoft is worried about 
the interest in Linux-based systems, fearing that because it is 
more difficult to use, offices that officially switch to Linux 
will soon unofficially switch back to pirated Microsoft software. 
Target the Big Targets 
2.  (U) At a recent meeting with Econoff and Econ FSN, Microsoft\'s 
Director for Business Development Asia-Pacific Emerging Markets 
Mr. Faycal Bouchlaghem and Vietnam Country Director Mr. Ngo Phuc 
Cuong described the situation in Vietnam from their company\'s 
perspective.  Despite the prevalence of vendors selling pirated 
copies of Windows and other MS software from countless shops, 
Microsoft has decided to focus first on getting the GVN and second 
on multinational firms operating in Vietnam to use licensed 
Microsoft software.  Their target is to switch the GVN over 
completely to licensed product over the next five years. 
Microsoft told Econoff that, like the rest of the market, the GVN 
currently uses very little licensed software and that many 
multinational firms that are law abiding elsewhere start using 
pirated software after a few months in Vietnam. 
Windows Costs Money 
3.  (U) Microsoft describes two main difficulties in moving the 
GVN from pirated to licensed software.   First is Microsoft\'s lack 
of pricing flexibility.  MS claims that they are constrained from 
offering deeply discounted pricing for the Vietnam or any other 
market by a `Consent Decree\' agreement with U.S. Department of 
Justice.  They say that the decree would allow MS to develop and 
sell a new Vietnamese Windows product, and if it was substantially 
different from the existing versions, they could sell this special 
version for any price they chose.  Microsoft\'s representatives 
said that this was not viable, however, since the Vietnamese 
market would not offer enough of a return on the investment needed 
to develop such products.  They said that the company can, 
however, discount software to existing customers.  But these 
customers will still have to pay for it. 
Linux is Cheaper 
4.  (U) The promise (false according to MS) of cheap or even free 
Linux-based software is another issue.  MS outlined several 
reasons why, in their admittedly biased view, Windows was a better 
choice.  First, the average user is used to Windows-based point 
and click software and retraining them to another system will be 
difficult.  Second, Linux systems require more technical expertise 
on the part of the end user than do Windows systems.  Finally, 
there would be a massive compatibility problem -- most of the 
world uses Windows, and the GVN could find themselves in a 
position where it might be difficult to communicate and share data 
between their Linux systems and everyone else\'s MS systems, not to 
mention the relative shortage of third-party software that runs on 
anything other than Windows. 
Copying Thailand 
5.  (U) Microsoft claims that these factors will inevitably lead 
to one outcome.  They contend, based on their own analysis using a 
post-purchase survey of commercial Linux users in Thailand, that 
within a few months of a shift to Linux, almost every GVN computer 
will also be running pirated Windows software.  They claim using 
Linux will be a hassle no one will put up with for very long.  In 
the Thai survey cited by MS over 70 percent of consumers that 
acquired Linux operating systems were back to using illegal 
Windows software within a few months. 
Other Efforts 
6.  (U) Though the GVN and multinationals remain the focus, MS 
also works with the Economic Police by offering them training on 
how to detect pirated products in the retail market. Microsoft 
agreed to let Econ FSNs attend the next training session.  This 
opportunity should allow ConGen to expand its contacts within the 
Economic Police and help us better target our assistance on IPR 
7.  (SBU) The firm is still trying to figure out the best way to 
work with local law enforcement.  Like many observers Microsoft 
has been critical of the GVN\'s effort to protect IPR and was 
surprised in a recent meeting when the Economic Police asked MS to 
\"identify targets\" for enforcement raids.  Microsoft elected not 
to give any names.  They explained that they do not want to set a 
precedent by doing the government\'s job when it does not take much 
detective work to find an IPR violator.  Nor do they wish to have 
MS linked to police action in the minds of consumers.  They do not 
want Vietnamese to think police raids and fines when they think 
Microsoft.  Microsoft\'s country director told Econoff that a few 
high-profile raids against small shopkeepers would not/not help 
Microsoft\'s long term business plan in Vietnam. 
8.  (U) Though wary of the stick, MS has been trying to use the 
carrot to change behavior.  The company\'s Vietnam offices recently 
began the \"Clean Shop Program.\"  This program asks retailers of 
software and assemblers of PCs to sign a pledge to provide 
customers with only licensed software.  In return, program members 
are rewarded with points for every licensed copy sold.   Points 
can be redeemed for merchandise in a system not much different 
from a frequent flyer or shopper program.  Thus far, the \"Clean 
Shop Program\" has had limited success.  In an investigation of 
program members, MS found that over 30 percent of the shops and 
factories -- all of whom volunteered for the program -- were still 
distributing unlicensed software. 
9.  (SBU) Microsoft\'s efforts to influence the local IPR situation 
extend beyond enforcement and rewards programs.   On March 16, 
2004 the software manufacturer signed a Memorandum of 
Understanding (MOU) with the Information Technology Project 
Management Office (ITPMO) of the Ho Chi Minh City People\'s 
Committee.  This MOU, five pages in length, was drafted to ensure, 
\"mutual business cooperation,\" and, \"establish a formal basis for 
cooperation in the area of Information and Communication 
Technology.\"  Under the terms of the MOU, Microsoft will, 
\"contribute to the social and economic development of Ho Chi Minh 
City by developing the local IT ecosystem by building skills 
through IT training for ICT companies, students, teachers and 
government ICT professional employees based on common projects, so 
as to help create employment opportunities in HCMC.\"  Microsoft 
also agrees to help develop HCMC\'s e-government projects and work 
with the city government to agree on software licensing terms 
under the Microsoft Volume Licensing Program.  Finally, Microsoft 
will set up courses to teach educators and students about ICT, as 
well as seminars, \"as appropriate for the target audience,\" on the 
value of IPR protection and enforcement.  In return, the HCMC 
People\'s Committee, through the ITPMO, agrees to \"co-operate with 
Microsoft in order to ensure that the Ho Chi Minh City People\'s 
Committee\'s government institutions lead by example in using only 
licensed software and adopt the best practices for IPR protection 
and for the enforcement of IPR protection through the relevant 
Government Institutions.\" (NOTE: Full text of MOU to follow by 
10.  (SBU) While the MOU is certainly a positive development, in 
that it increases dialogue and highlights the importance foreign 
companies place on IPR matters, it is an agreement without teeth. 
The MOU does not give either side legal leverage, nor are the 
stated goals and responsibilities binding.  Life can go on as 
usual.  If either party finds that an obligation must go 
unfulfilled for reasons beyond their \"reasonable\" control, they 
are automatically relieved of the obligation as long as they 
inform the other signatory in writing.  The MOU is a nice vision 
of the future, but it lacks an actionable plan. 
11.  (SBU) For now it appears that the world\'s software giant is 
more worried about competition from \"shareware\" than it is about 
pirates.  Microsoft\'s arguments that Linux may not be a good fit 
for Vietnam clearly stem from self-interest, but they have a 
point.  In a country where government offices are filled with 
computers running pirated software, it seems unlikely that a 
lasting improvement will take root if the new system is any more 
difficult to use than the familiar, albeit illegal, alternative. 
And it will be hard to take real enforcement actions in the South, 
when the government itself is one of the biggest violators. 

Linux is actually not “shareware”, it is Free/libre software.

This cable was labelled “IN VIETNAM, THE GOVERNMENT IS MICROSOFT’S FIRST TARGET” and it is easy to see why. There is also Linux FUD there, coming from the mouths of diplomats whose wages are paid by taxpayers. Who are those people really serving, people or corporations?

“It’s easier for our software to compete with Linux when there’s piracy than when there’s not.”

Bill Gates

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  1. mcinsand said,

    September 2, 2011 at 12:03 pm


    BSA is MS’ ‘front group?’ Isn’t that like calling Hezbollah Iran’s front group? When did you start sugarcoating things, Roy? BSA is a terrorist organization in the truest sense of the word; they exist to keep companies and government in quaking fear of not jumping high enough when the BSA even whispers ‘jump.’ They destroy companies for minor infractions just to make an example so other companies will be even more fearful. Granted, they don’t use suicide bombers … yet.


    The memo really has me thinking, especially since some of the embedded FUD was probably somewhat factual in the 1990′s. Point 5 is the one that gets me the most, though. Seven years ago, I believed it; I believed that Linux was more challenging because of what (FUD) I was hearing, and did think that, even if I tried it, I would be back to Windows within a month. XP-SP2 had been been a thorn in my side for a year, though. It was temperamental, unreliable, and it kept wanting me to bend to its will. I’m not a computer science specialist, and the only course I had was a watered-down introduction in the early ’80′s that was targeted towards PE and psychology majors.

    However, after one too many reboots, or having to once more check the ‘do not bother me with this again box,’ or trying to find out which ‘My Documents’ folder XP decided to use (it used more than one for my account)… anyway…. after one too many quirks on the then-recent computer, I dug a 5 year old cast-off PC out and installed Fedora 2.

    Several things had me quickly: 1) that old computer was *fast*, 2) it was reliable/stable, and 3) it would not balk when I wanted it to do what I wanted it to do. I have not had a Windows PC outside of work since 2004.

    Back to that point 5 from the memo, though. I don’t use Linux for FOSS ideals or really for the hardware cost, although Linux certainly reduces hardware cost. I use Linux because it is not as demanding to maintain, because it is reliable, and because it gives me better hardware support.

    It’s not that I am against FOSS ideals, but that is a chicken an egg situation. I needed something easy and dependable, and XP was not acceptable. Linux has proven that FOSS is a superior path, so I am loyal.

    This outdated FUD about Linux being difficult, having poor hardware support, or whatever is still hitting those that don’t know any better. I think MS would have come out better in the long run to have left that alone. All it did was drive the FOSS community even harder. At this point, I don’t see how MS or Apple could compete on technical merit. Now, all they have in their favor is FUD, bought politicans, and ignorant customers.

  2. Needs Sunlight said,

    September 2, 2011 at 1:16 pm


    M$ is still using outdated disinformation about Linux being difficult to use. It’s been much easier to use than Windows for close to a decade now. What’s lacking is the opportunity for students to use it first hand. When people can use Linux (Fedora or Ubuntu for example) along side XP, they quickly realize that Linux is easier and more powerful.

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