Since When Did US Diplomats Become Microsoft Sales Staff?

from the just-wondering... dept

Another tidbit from the recent dump of State Department cables shows that US diplomats in Bosnia were apparently instrumental in pushing the government there to license Microsoft software:

On December 18, the BiH Council of Ministers and Microsoft finally signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement for access to legal Microsoft applications for all state-level government ministries. Prime Minister Nikola Spiric signed the agreement on behalf of the BiH Government. The agreement obligates the BiH Government to use licensed software, but is only the first step in strengthening the state government’s intellectual property regime. Microsoft will now begin negotiations with BiH to purchase licenses for the software applications under the state’s purview. This marks a huge success for the U.S. Embassy, which has been working with state-level officials for three years to push for action to ban pirated and unlicensed software from ministry offices. (Note: Federation and RS-entity governments signed separate strategic partnership agreements with Microsoft in 2006. End note.)

They couldn’t push more open solutions?

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Comments on “Since When Did US Diplomats Become Microsoft Sales Staff?”

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71 Comments
Jon Renaut (profile) says:

Protecting US interests

You’ve got it wrong – the State Department is just protecting national interests. If we have to deal with crappy Microsoft products, the world has to deal with them, too. Imagine if the Bosnian government switched to Linux? Think how much money they’d save! Think how many extra processor cycles they’d be able to leverage without anti-virus software running all the time! We’d never be able to compete!

Anonymous Coward says:

Wow, talk about taking things in an odd way.

I don’t see the state department as a software salesman, they are only there to encourage foreign govenrments who might use pirated software to instead pay for it, which supports American business.

As for a “more open solution”, clearly if the Bosnian govenrment wanted to use open source software, they could. Apparently pirated Microsoft stuff was a much better choice for them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

But it is generally contained in their “job descriptios”, to wit, promoting the interests of US industry.

I suppose you would take issue with the DOS actively lobbying other countries to buy aircraft from Boeing in lieu of Airbus. OMG, I just realized this would be engaging in work on behalf of just one US company! I stand corrected…this would be a terrible precedent to establish.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Ugh, their job is promoting US business and commerce as a matter of Executive foreign policy. It is NOT, as I read it, their job to promote SPECIFIC companies and facilitate agreements between single American companies and foreign governments.

That reading could be wrong, but I have a hard time understanding how Microsoft cutting a licensing deal is a matter of foreign policy. Again I have to wonder where Apple is in all of this.

As to your example, if Boeing is being favored by the State in confidential negotiations, I’d expect Lockheed Martin to have a problem with that….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

There jobs include facilitating US business all over the world. Getting a government who is using pirated software to pay for it instead is good business, don’t you think?

It isn’t a question of favoring one over the other – the Bosnian government had already chosen Microsoft products. The State Department worked to get MS paid for what was already getting used.

You know, sometimes not everything is a grand conspiracy.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“It isn’t a question of favoring one over the other – the Bosnian government had already chosen Microsoft products. The State Department worked to get MS paid for what was already getting used.”

Actually, stated that way, it does make some sense. I’m still a little itchy about DoS folks pimping one specific corporation, but I can see how it makes sense in this case if the govt. was already using MS, albeit pirated, software.

You win this round, AC….

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

No, he doesn’t. Look specifically at what’s going on here…

” Getting a government who is using pirated software to pay for it instead is good business, don’t you think?”

Now, let’s think about a few things that *AREN’T* pirated software…

Linux in general, which is used in China far more than Microsoft regardless of piracy rates. Most servers use a version of Linux in their distros, but because Microsoft lobbies the US government to act as their agent, other countries switch to MS software. Hell, if we really want to get serious about US products, why doesn’t the US government promote Google products? Is it because they don’t see a check in the mail?

In this scenario, what the Bosnian government uses shouldn’t matter but they’re choosing sides at the detriment of other legal alternatives. But then, by saying they’re pirated seems like the choice was either MS or nothing at all. That’s very misleading.

surfer says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

copyright is an irrelevant, useless, monopolistic crowbar designed to empower the entitled. irrelevant of the platform used, pursuing a specific agenda to promote pocket lining of government officials to oppress yet another government is unethical at least, and most likely criminal at best. so answer me this, how does promoting the licensing of an ‘alleged’ infringing copy of product x, involve absolute deflection and lack of consideration of product y? i will tell you why, the owners of product y do not copyright their product nor do they line the pockets of dos, hence the promotion of product x, regardless of what was infringing, because the owners of product x line the pockets of government officials. this isnot in the best interests of the us, this is in the best interests of the owners of product x, to get their pockets lined

get it? btw, i love your posts, we haven’t had a troll with such a lack of moral fortitude in a while.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

I don’t think I have seen a bigger collection of buzzword nonsense on Techdirt since the last Marcus Carub post (where is Marcus, anyway? Was he one of the anonymous people arrested in the last sweep?). You could like one of those overly cool dudes trying to act all swanky and knowledgeable at a party, but instead you end up sounding like a fool.

People aren’t laughing with you, they are laughing at you.

Chris Maresca (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Hmmm, I think this topic may be outside of your knowledge sphere. There are 30+ people at the Dept. of Commerce who’s only job is to help Boeing with exports.

Why? Because Boeing is the single largest exporter in the US.

And any US business that needs export assistance can contact the local embassy/consulate for help with introductions, business development and even sometimes marketing. The reverse is also true, if you want to buy US goods, embassies have specialist staff to help find the right company. It’s very company to company specific work and it happens every day.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“Hmmm, I think this topic may be outside of your knowledge sphere. There are 30+ people at the Dept. of Commerce who’s only job is to help Boeing with exports.”

Oh, yes, DEFINITELY outside my area of expertise. I’m completely layman here. I’d also meant to respond to your earlier post after marking it “insightful”.

If you say it’s that way, I believe you. I’m just not sure in general how I feel about the DoS pimping specific companies rather than fostering commerce as a whole.

Chris Maresca (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Well, they do both. They push US companies as a whole, but when a specific company (e.g. Dark Helment, Inc) comes to them for help on a specific topic (and it’s within guidelines), then they will help a specific company with said topic. Also applies to narrow industry sectors.

It’s pretty much equal access, although the quality of the help you might get is highly variable. It’s also true that the more effort you put into preparing, the more likely a positive outcome (and effective help).

And they are not averse to putting together specialist teams to help companies on specific issues, esp. where it relates to government (where they, obviously, have the most access/influence) – see this FCS page – http://export.gov/faq/eg_main_017486.asp#P16_761 – obviously, the bigger the company, the more incentive FCS and other agencies have to help.

I would also point out that the US gov’t, via it’s embassies, gathers a lot of economic data about markets and makes it available to everyone. It’s a good starting point for figure out how to work with foreign markets…

Chris.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The reference to Airbus should have been a clue that the aircraft of interest are commercial. Lockheed got out of the commercial aircraft business decades ago. It, now in the form of LockMart, is focused exclusively on military aircraft.

BTW, in the international aircraft market it is not at all unusual for the DOS to come to the aid of Boeing and/or LockMart. It is virtually unheard of that two US military aircraft manufacturers would compete for a foreign procurement. Such procurements are type specific. In other sales where two or more US companies are involved, the DOS takes a neutral stance, but does urge foreign procurement officials to “Buy American”.

Interestingly, it is not at all unusual in a foreign procurement for a US manufacturer of defense equipment to find itself in competition with its primary customer…the USG. Now, this raises a whole host of legal and policy issues far beyond the scope of this article.

Chris Maresca (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s absolutely part of their job description. In fact, it’s a core part of their job. My father was a career diplomat, I worked at FAS in Vienna, Austria (see post below) and my wife is a consular official – we all have been heavily involved in helping companies get more business.

Pushing and facilitating exports is a core diplomatic function, probably more than it’s ever been. I’ve work on the contract negotiations (as a gov’t. official) between private sector companies, facilitating the conversation and providing a back channel.

This sort of deep involvement is probably the most valuable thing embassies do these days.

Chris.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“The lobby group has asked the U.S. Trade Representative to accord countries like Indonesia Special 301 status because it feels that encouraging the use of open-source threatens the software industry and devalues intellectual property rights. The IIPA?s recommendation to the USTR includes the following text:

?The Indonesian government?s policy? simply weakens the software industry and undermines its long-term competitiveness by creating an artificial preference for companies offering open source software and related services, even as it denies many legitimate companies access to the government market.

Rather than fostering a system that will allow users to benefit from the best solution available in the market, irrespective of the development model, it encourages a mindset that does not give due consideration to the value to intellectual creations.

As such, it fails to build respect for intellectual property rights and also limits the ability of government or public-sector customers (e.g., State-owned enterprise) to choose the best solutions.? “
http://mashable.com/2010/02/24/open-source-threatens-capitalism/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2010/feb/23/opensource-intellectual-property

blaktron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

There are a couple of important counterpoints to note here, in that when you mandate open source vs closed source with the assumption that because its open its implementation will be cheaper, then you naturally create incentives to offer buggy software for free and sell hugely expensive support contracts that can’t be RFP’d. Its important to evaluate total costs, rather than simply up front ones like open vs closed source.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The obviously counter argument to that is that open source creates local markets for local programmers, which means it also creates the environment where prices can’t go up without having a shit tone of competitors waiting for one to screw it up.

Further, Paypal, Google, Yahoo, Amazon and a lot of other use open source daily.

Most giants today started by using open source products because they couldn’t afford Microsoft and others paid solutions, which also brings us to the point in time when open source didn’t exist and companies didn’t feel the need to adjust their prices to something reasonable, open source acts like a price regulator in the market which benefits consumers.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“the DOS encouraging other countries to “Buy US”.”

This is not a problem. Specifically pushing Microsoft over and above all other solutions is a problem.

If their job was simply to get the Bosnian government to use legal software and they merely encouraged legal licences to be obtained for the software they use (as suggested by other comments above), there’s not much of an issue. If (as suggested in the original article), they were sent to push MS products over and above any other company’s products, then they became salesmen for a single private business, and those are people who should be working for the government.

I hope that clarified things.

Anonymous Coward says:

This opens up a massive can of worms if anyone does anything about it. As mentioned before, Apple should be up in arms due to the government aiding a business rival. Secondly, any non-US companies should have the same reaction. The US government getting involved in this harms other companies that produce competing products. And since the US is now directly benefiting a US company in international markets, this opens it up to a whole bunch of WTO litigation. Remember the disputes between Boeing and Airbus? Kinda like that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Since the 80’s at least.

“Impact Deferred

The TRON Project is not new; in fact, it was poised to its mark more than a decade ago, in Japan’s PC industry, but the U.S. government intervened. In 1989, Japanese electronics giant Matsushita introduced a BTRON PC, a machine that stunned the industry with its advanced capabilities. The BTRON PC had an 80286 Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) chip running at 8 MHz and a mere 2 MB of memory, but it could display moving video in color in a separate window. Also, it had a dual-booting system that could run both the BTRON OS and MS-DOS.

When the Japanese government announced it would install BTRON PC in Japanese schools, the U.S. government objected. It called the Japanese initiative “actual and potential market intervention” and threatened the move with sanctions. The Japanese, dependent on the U.S. export market, quickly dropped the plan. The U.S. government later withdrew its threat, but the damage had already been done. Nearly all Japanese companies involved in TRON-related activities had canceled their projects.”
http://www.linuxinsider.com/story/31855.html

“Did Hashimoto Try to Scuttle the TRON Project Under U.S. Pressure?

An interesting news tidbit appeared in the Japanese technology press at the end of October. Speaking at the “2004 Tokyo Metropolitan Government Venture Technology Award” awards ceremony, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara said of the TRON Project, ” There is a past in which Ryutaro Hashimoto, the Minister of International Trade and Industry at that time, broke under U.S. pressure and ended up shelving it.” Exactly who inside the Japanese government was responsible for pulling the rug from under the TRON Project in the 1980s was never made public, but Ryutaro Hashimoto is well known for pushing through changes in the Japanese economy that the U.S. government demanded be implemented. Needless to say, trying to destroy advanced Japanese technology to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. technology was not one of the brightest ideas he ever had, but ultimately he did not succeed and now the TRON Project is undergoing a full blown revival with massive backing from none other than the Japanese government, which has finally seen the light.”
http://tronweb.super-nova.co.jp/tronnews04-11.html

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“In 1989, Japanese electronics giant Matsushita introduced a BTRON PC, a machine that stunned the industry with its advanced capabilities.” No it didn’t.

“The BTRON PC had an 80286 Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) chip”

Too little, too late, the project was doomed. The Intel 386 was announced in 1985 and shipped in late 1986. The 386 was the real revolution in x86 CPU design. It instantly obsoleted all previous Intel CPUs. The failed IBM PS/2 computer came out in 1987 and also foolishly supported the 286. That design mistake killed the PS/2.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Oh just to give an idea any modern OS line Ubuntu, Windows XP and so forth will take several minutes to load in a virtual machine and be some one slower because of the graphics because of the lack of 3D acceleration.

BTRON was impressive at the time because it could do everything modern OS can do today without the need for powerful discrete graphics cards.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Thinking about it, it is still mighty impressive that something cooked up in the 80’s can still be as good as the modern day equivalents all the while using less resources.

Looking at the incomplete list of operating systems I just can’t see it having any competitors.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_operating_systems

In 1984 Microsoft was with DOS and Apple released it MacOS.

Mac OS v. 1.0 in 1984.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Apple_Macintosh_Desktop.png
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Mac_OS
Windows 1.0 in 1985
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_1.0

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BTRON

Chris Maresca (profile) says:

Don't be surprised, it's part of their job description...

… all embassies, from all countries, help sell the products from their country. It pretty much doesn’t matter what it is, that’s a core part of all missions. And their are specialist for most industry verticals doing this.

Back in the late ’80s, I helped sell US foodstuffs to the Soviet Union. I was working for the Foreign Agricultural Service, a part of the USDA which is present in a lot of embassies. It was my job to help market and sell US agricultural products to Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia – and, as it happens, the Soviet Union.

It makes no sense for an embassy to push anything open source or free as that brings zero economic benefit to the country. They might do so as part of a wider policy initiative, but most policies are not so prescriptive.

It’s important to remember that diplomats don’t exist for altruistic reasons. Their job is to gather information and knowledge about a country/region and to use that knowledge to push the interests of their country at every level, but particularly economically.

Anonymous Coward says:

The bright side is that the American government don’t send warships to threaten other countries no more if they don’t want to trade with them.

“Matthew Calbraith[1] Perry (April 10, 1794 ? March 4, 1858) was the Commodore of the U.S. Navy who compelled the opening of Japan to the West with the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodore_Matthew_Perry

Edward Teach says:

Remember _NSAKEY and we'll all stay free!

_NSAKEY, anybody?

At this point, after all the revelations about AT&T and NSA mass dragnet snooping on phone calls, does anybody have any serious doubt that MSFT products don’t have some “special accomodation” for the US Government to just have a look around? I agree, nothing specific since _NSAKEY has been found, but really, given how complicated Windows is, there’s room to hide a few 800 lb Gorillas in it.

darryl says:

Once again - Mike totally misses the point

US Diplomats and politicians have a specific responsibility to promote US products and services, US companies and US interests.

Just like every other diplomat and politician. That is their jog.

MS employs many US citizens, and it creates many flow on jobs, thus creating wealth for all Americans.

US diplomats promote the sale of US Oil, US Coal, US grain, US food products, US cars, US Software, and so on.

If they did not do that then what ARE they there for ?

The Government exists specifically for this purpose, if the Goverment did not do that, then companies like MS would not operate in that country. They would not employ thousands or 10’s of thousands of people in that country.

US Diplomat primary job is to MARKET US idealogy, US products and services and to ensure US interests are not being undermined by illegal activity.

So yes, they are marketers for America and that is exactly why you pay them and why they are there.

It is what their job is…

Perhaps Mike would like to explain what he thinks Diplomats are supposed to do ? Or politicians for that matter.

A Guy (profile) says:

Re: Once again - Mike totally misses the point

Hate to say it, but the troll has point. Promoting US interests abroad includes the economic interests of US companies. Whether other countries (or our citizens when the US is actively working against our interests) should logically listen to us is another question altogether…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Once again - Mike totally misses the point

What to me is scary is that Mike claims to be the MBA with real world experience, yet he simply doesn’t have a clue how international business works or the involvement of the US embassy services in helping companies to do business in foreign countries. It is a pretty basic concept, when you think about it.

So when he absolute punts one like this into the ditch, you have to wonder how he was doing on other (more complex) topics. Notice while Mike corrected other posts, he stayed away from this one, because he would hate to admit that an attempted slam at Microsoft blew up in his face.

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