10.28.08

It’s Not Bribery If It’s Just “Marketing Help”

Posted in Africa, GNU/Linux, Mandriva, Microsoft, OLPC, Windows at 11:28 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Redmond behemoth scrambles for ‘damage control’

Microsoft’s anti-GNU/Linux incentives are an issue that we’ve studied quite closely and carefully [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. 9, 10]. We must consider what’s sometimes referred to as "sort bribery" and realise that, realistically speaking, bribes can be made in all sorts of way. We even mentioned Novell in this context, even though it goes a good number of years back to the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Bribes, or to put it more mildly — “incentives” — can be granted in a variety of artistic and original ways. Yesterday there was a timely story about it in the news. It’s a political story by its very nature, but the Senator who was accused and found guilty of corruption also battled against the neutral Web. He may have caused harm to the Internet.

Nothing separates politics from technology. Always follow the influence.

“In each case, there are gentler words and terms that describe the transactions involved.”There are quite a few similar examples that we’ve covered here before and which involve Microsoft, ranging from political distortion to bloggers and journalists who receive gifts, consultants who receive lucrative contracts, partners who rig votes in exchange for incentives and so forth.

In each case, there are gentler words and terms that describe the transactions involved. Words may include: “marketing”, “evangelism”, “gifts”, “rewards”, “incentives”, “favours”, “obligation”, “contracts”, “studies”, and “independent but Microsoft-commissioned.” We have seen it all before.

To get a glimpse at what Microsoft has done in Nigeria, here are some places to start [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. There is a lot more to be said about what Microsoft has been doing in the whole of Africa. It is no surprise that some local shops called for a boycott against Microsoft and Intel.

What is interesting to discover is that the Wall Street Journal studied a small part of this saga and has just published an article that looks closely at a portion of it. It’s about Microsoft paying an unnamed Nigerian official $400,000 to drop Mandriva Linux from an already-approved and already-announced deal.

In Nigeria, Microsoft proposed paying $400,000 last year under a joint-marketing agreement to a government contractor it was trying to persuade to replace Linux with Windows on thousands of school laptops. The contractor’s former chief executive describes the proposal as an incentive to make the switch — an interpretation Microsoft denies. In Namibia and Nigeria, where it has sought government contracts, the company hired family members of government officials. Microsoft says they were qualified.

It was only a week and a half ago that we spotted a related incident. A relative of government officials (son of a former president) is attacking bloggers who are critical of Microsoft. This one is a particular example from Nigeria.

“No other large companies as far as I know use their employees as attack dogs to silen[ce] dissent. It’s time for Microsoft to stop this nonsense.”

The Prickly Prince From Microsoft Strikes Again

Anyway, further notes the article from the Wall Street Journal:

On Oct. 30, Mandriva announced it had won the contract to provide Linux software for the Classmates. Microsoft didn’t give up. The next day, it delivered TSC a revised draft agreement with an “effective date” of Nov. 1, documents show. It offered to pay $400,000 to TSC. In the revised agreement, there no longer was any mention of TSC having to comply with Microsoft’s code of conduct.

In an Oct. 31 email, TSC told Mandriva that there had been a “change in circumstances,” and that it “has recently reached an understanding with Microsoft to convert” the Classmates from Linux to Windows.

Mandriva’s chief executive, Francois Bancilhon, responded by posting “an open letter to Steve Ballmer,” Microsoft’s CEO, on Mandriva’s Web site. “What have you done to these guys to make them change their mind like this?” he wrote. “It’s quite clear to me, and it will be to everyone. How do you call what you just did, Steve? There are various names for it, I’m sure you know them.” Mr. Bancilhon declined to elaborate on his letter.

In the end, the joint-marketing agreement was never signed, and the Microsoft deal unraveled. Microsoft says it gave up after “it became clear” that the Nigerian government wanted Linux.

The laptops were delivered with Linux.

This one, for a change, contains a happy ending.

Microsoft’s other operations in Africa are discussed in some more details in this article, but it neglects to mention some tactics which we covered a couple of months back.

Is Microsoft competing fairly? Who are they kidding?

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8 Comments

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    October 28, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Gravatar

    IIRC, the term is “marketing partner” and has been used to functionally circumvent the courts’ prohibition on per-processor fees.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 28, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Gravatar

    “Marketing partner” also sometimes refers to E-W, LawMedia, Edelman and other agencies that Microsoft taps to recruit AstroTurfers.

    I forgot to mention “charity” and “investment” as terms that are commonly used to disguise soft bribery.

  3. xISO_ZWT said,

    October 28, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Gravatar

    Recently in a senate committee hearing regarding h-1b visas, bill gates kind’ve threatened the senators with pulling his (microsoft’s) business out of the states and relocate to other countries. He said there weren’t enough talented developers in the states. He says that with a straight face; he is shameful, how low can you go. He even opened a compound up in Canada.

    I’d say call his “trump” and help him, his lobbyists and, let’s not forget, his paid politicians, move out of the states.

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 29, 2008 at 2:53 am

    Gravatar

    Yes, I remember that form of blackmail. More on that here.

  5. Lisa Lefty said,

    October 29, 2008 at 4:54 am

    Gravatar

    You wouldn’t want more dev jobs in the UK Roy? That is basically what he is offering.

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 29, 2008 at 5:55 am

    Gravatar

    He offers labour from countries where wages are lower (same with benefits, if any) and being overworked is tolerated.

  7. xISO_ZWT said,

    October 29, 2008 at 7:34 am

    Gravatar

    Great developers come from all countries. Like unblemished jewelry an excellent developers’ labor is worth more than non-excellent. Monopolies are just trying to devalue excellent programming skills for their own greed. Money for nothing.

    What I heard yesterday in Lou Dobbs: Some companies that were using h-1b visa workers are paying them way below current market-value and some are not even getting paid. Making people work for nothing is one of the highest forms of dis-ingenuousness & disrespect (equ; slavery)

  8. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 29, 2008 at 7:43 am

    Gravatar

    There was an article 2 weeks ago (in BusinessWeek, if I recall correctly) about the fraud that h-1b visas have become. There’s a lot of corruption around this thing and the publication exposed it.

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