Summary: Another shady deal between the Government of Oman and Microsoft, as revealed by a 2007 diplomatic cable
“The agreement, signed by Mohammed Nasser al-Khusaibi, Chairman of the ITA and Secretary General of the Ministry of National Economy, and Charbel Fakhoury, General Manager of Microsoft Gulf, calls for an investment of $6 million in establishing the center, $1 million of which is to come from Microsoft under its investment partnership accord with the Omani government (reftel).”
Why is the government covering the large majority of the costs for a Microsoft recruitment centre? Does the public of Oman (taxpayers) know that this is going on? It was only yesterday that we wrote about the Government of Oman and Microsoft. The same types of deals happen in other countries and remain secret for a reason. Here is the later Cablegate cable (it came months later):
DE RUEHMS #0323 0910806
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 010806Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY MUSCAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8035
INFO RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
UNCLAS MUSCAT 000323
STATE FOR NEA/ARP, EEB/CBA
COMMERCE FOR COBERG
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON, EINV, KIPR, MU
SUBJECT: MICROSOFT FIRMS PARTNERSHIP WITH GOVERNMENT
REF: 06 MUSCAT 1282
1. On March 27, Microsoft concluded an agreement with Oman's
Information Technology Authority (ITA) to launch an
innovation and support center, to be housed at Knowledge
Oasis Muscat (KOM), the government-run technology incubator.
The agreement, signed by Mohammed Nasser al-Khusaibi,
Chairman of the ITA and Secretary General of the Ministry of
National Economy, and Charbel Fakhoury, General Manager of
Microsoft Gulf, calls for an investment of $6 million in
establishing the center, $1 million of which is to come from
Microsoft under its investment partnership accord with the
Omani government (reftel). Microsoft Country Manager
Abdullah al-Lootah told Econoff that the center will house
between 20 to 40 Omanis, who will be trained by Microsoft
consultants to deliver services under the government's
"E-Oman" initiative in two to three years' time.
2. Lootah explained that the initiative is one of several
Microsoft is pursuing to "bridge the technology skills gap"
in Oman. In addition to the innovation center, Microsoft
will team with KOM and other selected partners in training
300 Omani government professionals per year on Microsoft
solutions. To support the government's recent purchase of
over 22,000 operating licenses, Microsoft will provide 24
hour on-site support services. In terms of further promoting
knowledge transfer opportunities, Microsoft will sponsor six
month visits by government officials to the company's Dubai
office to educate them on "best financial practices."
Why is Microsoft receiving this franchise in Oman? Does that serve the interests of the Omani people? █
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Summary: A look at how Microsoft is gently pressuring China to suit Microsoft rather than China
MICROSOFT along with its bully, the BSA, have been busy trying to make Chinese law a little more China-hostile, in order to increase Microsoft profits after it seeded the market. “They’ll get sort of addicted,” Bill Gates famously explained about Chinese people, “and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”
Disgusting. Greed, addiction, exploitation. Cornerstones of Microsoft?
The Cablegate cable from 5 years ago shows us how Microsoft gently blackmails the Chinese, promising jobs only if they change Chinese practices to suit Microsoft:
OO RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHGZ #0810/01 2700601
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 270601Z SEP 06
FM AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4043
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC 0912
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 GUANGZHOU 030810
STATE FOR EAP/CM AND DRL
USDA FOR FAS/ITP AND FAS/FAA
USDOC FOR 4420/ITA/MAC/MCQUEEN
USPACOM FOR FPA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON, EINV, KIPR, CH
SUBJECT: Microsoft Growing Rapidly in South China
(U) This document is sensitive but unclassified. Please protect
1. (SBU) Summary: Microsoft representatives told the Consul General
September 21 that with the company's rapid growth in Shenzhen and
elsewhere, they expect sales in South China to surpass those in Hong
Kong. Company representatives complained about weak copyright
enforcement and asked the Consulate to continue to highlight the
need for improved IPR protection with local government leaders. End
South China: a fast-growing key market for software
2. (U) The two representatives - Ni Jianbo, General Manager of the
Branch Office, and Zhong Weidong, Southern Regional Manager of
Microsoft's branch company in Guangzhou - were bullish on the
company's overall development and future plans, but more tentative
about prospects for protecting Microsoft's intellectual property
rights (IPR) in southern China. South China accounts for about 30%
of the Microsoft's overall revenues countrywide, of which half comes
from Shenzhen. Some of Microsoft's businesses, such as its
enterprise partnership group, have grown by 200 times since the
establishment of the Shenzhen branch office in 2005. Ni and Zhong
believe Microsoft's sales in South China will exceed that of Hong
Kong next year, while sales volumes in East China have already
surpassed those of Hong Kong and are expected to exceed those of
Taiwan next year. The Greater China market (mainland China, Hong
Kong, and Taiwan) is so important to Microsoft that it is one of the
company's seven key subsidiaries in the world that reports directly
Microsoft's headquarters in Seattle.
3. (U) Microsoft's clients in Shenzhen include China's giant
telecommunication groups of Huawei Technologies and ZTE (Zhong Xin)
as well as local governments. Microsoft established its branch
office in Shenzhen to provide a quicker response to local clients,
to save operation costs and to better compete with other software
companies, such as Oracle, which came much earlier than Microsoft to
Shenzhen. Currently Microsoft has three sites in Shenzhen, dealing
with sales, technical support, research and development and
4. (U) According to Ni and Zhong, Microsoft is building close
relationships with the local government in Shenzhen. To demonstrate
its long-term commitment to Shenzhen, Microsoft plans to upgrade the
branch office into a branch company, which would then pay tax
locally instead of to the main office in Beijing, to make more
investments, and to merge its three scattered office sites into one
in Shenzhen. Following a nationwide "cooperation" model with local
governments, Microsoft is partnering with a local company designated
by Shenzhen Government to set up a cooperation program called "MSTC"
(Microsoft Training Center) which helps local governments by
providing technical support, training, and solutions to e-government
projects; this also ensures the use of legal software. In the
Guangzhou consular district, Microsoft has opened one MSTC in
Xiamen, Fujian Province, is planning to open one in Hainan next
month, and has plans to open a center in Guangxi.
Weak IPR enforcement remains a big challenge
5. (SBU) Ni and Zhong commented that while local governments have
been making progress in IPR protection, copyright protection for
software was a low priority for local officials, particularly in
Guangzhou. Zhong said local Copyright Bureau officials focused
mainly on developing the local cultural industry, including
publishing and audio and video products. Local government agencies
have made little effort to enforce the rights of stakeholders in the
software industry (both domestic and foreign), despite Microsoft's
lobbying efforts during the past several years. According to Zhong,
the main reason behind the relative absence of copyright enforcement
was that software industry contributes a very small portion of local
GDP, the majority of which relies on manufacturing. They also
thought that officials might be concerned about the impact of
rigorous enforcement on the local business environment since many
manufacturers use pirated software. Local officials often do not
attend copyright protection seminars or events that industry
chambers such as the Business Software Association (BSA) or Chinese
Software Association (CSA) organize. Both Zhong and Ni said that
the lack of interest in protecting software copyright puts Guangdong
at a disadvantage when competing with Shanghai; in addition, lack of
GUANGZHOU 00030810 002 OF 002
protection will not help upgrade Guangdong upgrade knowledge-based
6. (SBU) Zhong, who had previously worked in Microsoft's branches in
Southwest China for three years, pointed out that officials in those
areas were more cooperative than Guangdong. Microsoft was
successful in getting enforcement action in Southwest China by
adopting a "top-down" strategy to build relations with local
provincial and municipal leaders and thus encourage them to order
local enforcement agencies to take more action. A similar strategy
in South China had not been as successful, though Ni acknowledged
this effort was new. In Guangxi, Microsoft got a commitment from
the local Copyright Bureau to take two enforcement cases, starting
in October. Zhong commented that most enforcement agencies just
want a few "showcase" actions they can point to and then do nothing
further. Microsoft's goal is to have local agencies do a minimum of
two-or-three enforcement showcases to achieve successes and hope
this will encourage them to do more. At the same time, the company
also realizes that it is impossible for local government to do too
many cases, given their limited resources.
7. (SBU) Zhong asked the Consul General to urge local government
leaders in Guangdong to be more cooperative in copyright
cooperation, since they found "Top-down" strategy is very helpful in
other areas where they also first encounter officials unwilling to
8. (SBU) Microsoft's experience in South China highlights regional
differences in China's IPR enforcement. Enforcement is often
subject to local protectionism. Local officials often believe that
enforcement conflicts with the need to develop the economy in order
for them to get promoted. Until they can be persuaded that
enforcement actually helps development the economy, we will continue
to have problems such as those described above.
We sure hope that Goldberg understands why Microsoft’s behaviour is wrong. It knowingly turns a blind eye to counterfeiting when it suits it, later calling everyone a “pirate” and demanding payments or jail time. Microsoft makes entire nations look bad, collectively criminalising its own clients. █
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Summary: A scholarly study claims to have investigated the industry of patent trolls and Google (Android) remains vulnerable to them, despite buying a massive heap of patents
WE HAVE just found this paper which Slashdot helps promote with a link to a discussion. It is an academic study that the author himself promotes in a patent lawyers’ site. Quoting Slashdot:
“In a guest post on the Patently-O blog, Villanova University professor Michael Risch summarizes his detailed study into the methods and efficacy of patent trolls. He writes, ‘It turns out that most of what I thought about trolls — good or bad — was wrong…. Perhaps the biggest surprise in the study was the provenance of patents. I thought most patents came from failed startups. While such patents were represented (about 14% of initial assignees were defunct), most came from companies still in business in 2010. Indeed, more than a third of the initial assignees were publicly traded, a subsidiary of a public company, or venture capital recipients. Only 21% were patent assertion entities at the time the patent issued, and many of those were inventor owned companies (like Katz) rather than acquisition entities (like Acacia). … Another area of surprise was patent quality. While trolls almost never won their cases if they went to judgment (only three cases led to an infringement finding on the merits), the percentage of patents invalidated on the merits was lower than I expected.’”
Quoting the author:
Few players in the patent system (maybe none) are more hated than patent trolls. There is a lot of debate about what it means to be a patent troll, but the commonly accepted definition is a plaintiff that asserts patents (usually acquired ones) but makes no product. More accurate terms are non-practicing entities (NPEs) or patent assertion entities (PAEs), but I’ll keep using trolls here if only to be mainstream.
Commentators (including me) have intuitions about the types of patents that trolls assert; the media is filled with claims. The problem with these intuitions is that they are all anecdotal – we think we know what we know from the limited reporting we see about cases that hit the news. But trolls have been around for a long time (two of the entities I studied brought their first suit in 1986) and they file a lot of lawsuits.
Microsoft is going to use patent trolls against Google, in order to get around Google’s new patents shield. It has become apparent now that MOSAID steps up and makes appalling statements while Microsoft confirms its role. We are still observing patent sales everywhere (patents of failed companies), including one of Google’s. “The Googorola dilemma” calls it this new article which explains:
The marriage of Google and Motorola Mobility raises a number of intriguing possibilities, writes Kate Bulkley.
Several years ago the verb ‘to Google’ entered the dictionary. It meant finding something online, generally by using the world’s most popular search engine site. But the recent US$12.5 billion (€8.7 billion) acquisition by Google from Motorola Mobility, which includes the mobile phone handset and set-top box making businesses as well as 17,000 patents, means that for the pay TV industry, and the technology business in general, the term Googling could be taking on a much bigger definition.
Google is wasting its money on patents it does not need for traditional purposes. Instead of validating this system, it ought to have used it to fund groups that abolish patents. █
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Summary: Public feedback required regarding the most important question (in our view)
TECHRIGHTS spent a lot of effort covering the subject of software patents in New Zealand and little attention was paid to what was going on in Australia. Now there’s a chance for Australians to say that — since they are not patent lawyers — they are against software patents. The question about this is asked specifically:
Should innovation patents be unavailable for computer software?
Australians who say “no” are most likely high-level executives in some very large company or some of their patent lawyers/lobbyists. Policy should stick to public interest, not special interest. The latter is better funded. █
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Summary: Microsoft Linux (sometimes known as SUSE) still plays into the hands of Microsoft Corporation
OpenSUSE (the community/volunteer facet of SUSE) indirectly signed a deal with Microsoft and a sort of pact with Xamarin just over a month ago. Another release of OpenSUSE seems to be on its way (hardly any news from the project except for that) and despite the fact that Mono is a patent liability, OpenSUSE 12.1 removes Sun/Oracle Java but not Mono. This is consistent with everything we expect from a Microsoft-sponsored distribution and all the Novell videos in the world (here are some of the latest one [1, 2, 3] cannot hide the company’s close ties to Microsoft. In anything, those videos only validate Novell’s dependence on Windows and on Microsoft. █
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Summary: Encouraging developments in Tamil Nadu, Switzerland, and other victims of Microsoft meddling with corruptible officials
TRANSPARENCY to Microsoft is like sunlight to a vampire. Over the past few days Microsoft has had to deal with countless PR blunders, mostly those caused by Cablegate (Microsoft is already well-connected to saboteurs who harmed Wikileaks). There is a lot more of that to come and we intend to play a role in Cablegate organisation. The good news is that bad policies can be reversed by shedding light on the corrupt people involved. It actually does work. It’s not negativism when one exposes misconduct. It’s not bashing, either.
Last week we had received an exclusive story from an informant who also informed Muktware of something rogue in Tamil Nadu. He also leaked to us the supporting documents. Watch what has happened as a result of all this coverage: a national and international outcry, then damage control from the officials involved. Muktware has some good news now. “Tamil Nadu Government To Put Linux On Free Laptops” says the headline and the rest is reassuring too. Quoting some context/background: “Microsoft’s Windows was selected as the default operating system for the laptops, cutting out Linux and Open Source vendors from participating in the tender.”
Another similar/related story comes from the Swiss government, which “unblocks open source court software release” according to The H (it came to realise that Free software must be embraced to avoid a fiasco). Quoting the article:
The committee that controls the Swiss Federal court has moved to allow the publication of OpenJustitia as open source. The release of the software had been blocked in July as proprietary companies claimed the release of the document management system (DMS) for courts under a GPLv3 licence would amount to the state interfering in the software market by cross-subsidisation.
An OSOR.eu report says that the control committee sent the Federal Court questions about the DMS system to establish the legal basis for the development of the software. The court responded in August saying it was not entering into competition. Because the cost of the development, which began in 2007, has already been written off and anyone wanting to modify the software would have to bear the costs of those modifications themselves, the court said that it considered there was no cross-subsidisation.
Previously, there was a corrupt tendering process in Switzerland — one that we covered in:
- Microsoft Sued Over Its Corruption in Switzerland, Microsoft Debt Revisited
- Can the United Kingdom and Hungary Still be Sued for Excluding Free Software?
- 3 New Counts of Antitrust Violation by Microsoft?
- Is Microsoft Breaking the Law in Switzerland Too?
- Microsoft Uses Lobbyists to Attack Holland’s Migration to Free Software and Sort of Bribes South African Teachers Who Use Windows
- ZDNet/eWeek Ruins Peter Judge’s Good Article by Attacking Red Hat When Microsoft Does the Crime
- Week of Microsoft Government Affairs: a Look Back, a Look Ahead
- Lawsuit Against Microsoft/Switzerland Succeeds So Far, More Countries/Companies Should Follow Suit
- Latest Reports on Microsoft Bulk Deals Being Blocked in Switzerland, New Zealand
- Swiss Government and Federal Computer Weekly: Why the Hostility Towards Free Software?
- Switzerland and the UK Under Fire for Perpetual Microsoft Engagements
- Lawsuit Over Alleged Microsoft Corruption in Switzerland Escalates to Federal Court
- When Microsoft-Only/Lock-in is Defined as “Technology”
- Microsoft’s Allegedly Illegal Swiss Contracts to Take People to Court Again
- Microsoft’s Allegedly Illegal US Procurement Gets Frozen After Lawsuit
The Swiss government gradually realises that even lawsuits will be filed against it if it misuses public funds by handing them over to Microsoft without even tendering. A lawsuit helped expose what was happening and it did not look good. The same goes for our early posts about Tunisia, which received a lot of attention and later resulted in a lot of coverage, including some from Salon and TechEye, which says:
Whistle-blowing site Wikileaks has is “currently under heavy attack” in the aftermath of the latest release of cables.
The infamous site recently released a new batch of documents, and Microsoft is one of the latest to find itself in hot water – as its role working with the repressive Tunisian government comes to light.
According to ZDNet UK, a cable was sent by the US embassy in September 2006 highlighting how Microsoft had been cosying up to the authoritarian regime of President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.
It appears that, in its desperation to stop Tunisian authorities using open source in place of its own Windows products, Microsoft set up a program on cyber criminality to cover training, as well as handing over the source code for Windows.
While Microsoft is not the only firm caught misbehaving with foreign governments, with others lending support to the Libyan regime, the support of the Tunisian authorities prior to the uprising which kicked off the Arab Spring is serious stuff.
Watch what Microsoft is doing in some other countries though. Tunisia is hardly the exception and in days/weeks to come we’ll show some similar stories, having just explained [crfe 52994 how Windows cracks will help Iran prosecute and probably execute opposition]. Proprietary software aids tyranny. They both work along similar lines. They both rely on corruption and betrayal of basic public rights. █
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Summary: In the midst of Wikileaks drama we learn that an executions-savvy regime will benefit from Windows cracks
“Windooze insecurity puts Iranian dissidents in mortal danger,” states the subject line of an anonymous USENET post, quoting this article. “A Dutch CA called DigiNotar,” says the poster, “was hacked by Iranian hackers, likely with the intention of intercepting SSL traffic (Gmail, Facebook etc.) of Iranian activists and freedom fighters. I checked DigiNotar’s website and guess what operating system they’re using? You guessed it! WINDOOZE ASP.NET!!!
“So now Microsoft will have blood on its hands. Its insecure graphical-shell-pretending-to-be-an-operating-system is now possibly responsible for the deaths and prosecution of many Iranians!! [..] THIS COMPANY SHOULDN’T BE SPLIT UP, IT SHOULD BE SHUT DOWN”
“And as long as otherwise respectable companies insist on e-mailing me “slide shows” in the form of IrfanView .exe files because “it’s so user-friendly”, Windows will remain as secure as a wet paper bag.”
–Richard RaskerA more moderate Dutch poster, Richard Rasker, wrote separately: “I guess we’ve all heard how a Dutch Certificate Authority by the name of Diginotar, formerly used by even the Dutch IRS authority and countless city councils, has screwed up severely, when their systems were breached by Iranian hackers, who managed to poison the world with many hundreds of bogus certificates. Then they screwed up even more by hushing up about the hack for months — a huge no-no in a world where trust is the highest good.
“And now it turns out that the screw-up has soared to even greater heights. In case you wondered what OS these people were using, here’s the answer:
“For those who don’t understand Dutch:
“Fox-IT: Diginotar didn’t even use a virusscaner
Fox IT has delivered a devastating verdict on Diginotar’s infrastructure. The company didn’t adhere to agreements and procedures. Even elementary security measures were totally absent.
These are the conclusions from an investigation by Fox IT into the security breach at Diginotar, as passed by Webwereld and NU.nl through a governmental source. It turns out that all operations were taking place from within one single Windows domain. This made it possible to gain access to the certificate administration from any work station; logging in to one’s work station was sufficient to get access to the systems. This is a mortal sin in the world of IT security. In addition, Diginotar was already aware of the abuse of its certificates as early as July.
No secure zones
Even when issuing certificates for government use, standard security rules were trodden underfoot. The government’s PKI computers operate from within a secure vault, and should never have been connected to Diginotar’s network. Yet even on those machines, investigators found evidence that connections had been made to the Windows domain.
…” [no virus scanner ... no proper logging ... no strong password enforcement ... inadequate intrusion detection ... hackers got & used administrator rights ... certificates chucked in an easily accessible database ... etcetera]
“Now I won’t say that this could never have happened in a Linux environment,” notes Rasker, “but for a screw-up of these truly epic proportions, Windows is the OS of choice — because it traditionally “makes things easy”, and because Windows users are traditionally not used to working with proper permissions, secure networks and strong passwords.
“And as long as otherwise respectable companies insist on e-mailing me “slide shows” in the form of IrfanView .exe files because “it’s so user-friendly”, Windows will remain as secure as a wet paper bag. QED.” █
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Summary: Xamarin introduces “Enterprise products” (proprietary) that put Microsoft code inside Android and even Tomdroid does not depend on it
Earlier this year we were made aware of Tomdroid, which is a GPLv3-licensed complement (not derivative or fork) of the Mono-based Tomboy. Well, Xamarin is selling Mono for Android like it’s a proprietary software product (which it is, as Microsoft MVP de Icaza calls it Open Core), so it’s not hard to see why Tomdroid avoids it.
“It would be nice if there was a project of this kind that’s based on Gnote.”According to The H, “Tomdroid lead developer Olivier Bilodeau has released version 0.5.0 of his open source Tomboy client for note-taking. Tomdroid allows users running Google’s Android mobile operating system to synchronise notes from the Tomboy desktop application to their devices for viewing; the client is currently read-only.” Will it be Gnote-compatible? Or will it — just like Ubuntu One — be very silly? Google limits development possibilities on Android. It would be nice if there was a project of this kind that’s based on Gnote. However Bilodeau says that “gnote has the right to exist and succeed but I also agree with sandy’s arguments when he’s saying its counter-productive.” How about Ubuntu’s replacement of GIMP in favour of Mono-based software that still receives a little attention (even though it has been dropped from Ubuntu's default)? Do users ever need Mono? It’s not only very bloated but it’s also a patent risk. █
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