The first Microsoft bombshell of the day: concerns about China’s repressive government could lead Microsoft to leave the country, a company executive said at a conference in Athens, according to this BBC story flagged on Slashdot today.
“Things are getting bad … and perhaps we have to look again at our presence there,” senior policy counsel Fred Tipson said in the story.
“We have to decide if the persecuting of bloggers reaches a point that it’s unacceptable to do business there. … We try to define those levels and the trends are not good there at the moment. It’s a moving target.”
It sounds unbelievable, after the huge investment Microsoft has made in China, where it does research and development, testing, education outreach, services outsourcing and hardware manufacturing. Not to mention the software it sells in the country.
Would the company really break from the pack and make that powerful but costly statement? Is it throwing its weight around to pressure the Chinese government, similar to the way the Chinese government has pressured Microsoft to step up investments there?
Maybe Tipson was speaking rhetorically. Or perhaps it’s posturing related to the human rights initiative shareholders will vote on at Microsoft’s Nov. 14 annual meeting.
Update: Microsoft said this is hogwash. It’s not leaving China anytime soon, according to a statement spokesman Lou Gellos emailed me:
“Microsoft will continue to offer services and communication tools in China. Contrary to an inaccurate press account of Microsoft comments at the Internet Governance Forum, we are not considering the suspension of our Internet services in China. On the contrary, we believe it is better for customers if Microsoft is present in global markets with these tools and services that can not only promote greater communication, but can also help foster economic opportunity and societal advancement.”