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Look, Hu's Coming to Dinner!

Hu was on the calendar for dinner at the Gates residence this week? That's right, Chinese President Hu Jintao -- the leader of the country that undoubtedly represents the world's most coveted market -- chowed down Tuesday night at Bill and Melinda's place in a dinner hosted by Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, who must have felt a little intimidated in the presence of one of the most important men in the world...and the president of China.

This wasn't just a social visit, though. Microsoft is all about keeping it real in China when it comes to software. More to the point, Gates may be one of the world's great supporters of charity, but he doesn’t want to give any software away -- at least not to those users in the world's most populous country who should be paying for it. China's booming software market is famous for being beset with pirated copies of just about everything, and Gates no doubt had a quiet word with Hu over aperitifs about how to stem the tide of bootleg software in the Middle Kingdom.

Microsoft has been busy signing Chinese firms up in its effort to have genuine copies of Windows loaded onto computers sold in China. Founder Technology Group Corp. agreed last week to buy $250 million worth of licenses over the next three years for a Chinese version of Windows for use on computers sold in China. Chinese PC manufacturer Tsinghua Tongfang Co. Ltd. recently signed a similar agreement, and computer maker Lenovo Group Ltd. said last fall that it would start loading Windows on most of the computers it manufactures for China.

Microsoft has conquered a lot of markets over the years and will continue to do so, but the fight against piracy in China -- where the company says it has 3,000 partners -- is one battlefield on which the software giant is going to need some serious allies. Given the size and growth potential of the Chinese market, piracy in that country is a massive issue that could make or break the entire software industry for decades to come. Chinese officials are pledging cooperation with Microsoft in stamping out piracy, but don't expect this battle to be as easy as Microsoft's burials of Lotus SmartSuite or WordPerfect. This is new territory for Gates and his charges, and it'll be interesting to see what influence he peddles and what stops he pulls out in guiding his troops.

Naked in Beijing No More
Officials in the Chinese capital have pitched into Microsoft’s effort by banning the sale of "naked" computers -- machines sold without software. The ban is scheduled to take effect by the end of the year, so "naked" computer merchants only have a matter of months to comply, go underground or start bribing government officials in an attempt to get around the ban.

Say Goodbye to 9x Support
Remember 1998? The Monica Lewinsky scandal? John Elway and the Broncos winning the Super Bowl? That impressive new version of Windows with a vintage stamped on it as if it were a fine bottle of St. Emilion? Seems like a long time ago, doesn't it? Well, Microsoft thinks it's been long enough for those of you still using Windows 98, 98 Second Edition and Windows Millennium Edition. It will cut off all paid support of those versions of Windows on July 11.

More Microsoft BI Maneuvering
Redmond continues to beef up its Business Intelligence offerings for the Dynamics enterprise resource planning suite. The latest is Redmond's OEM deal with Nexvue, a 21-person Microsoft Gold Certified Partner based in Stamford, Conn. that develops Business Information Optimization software.

Posted by Lee Pender on April 19, 2006


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