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Microsoft as a Sovereign Nation?

By Erbo in MLP
Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 11:52:34 AM EST
Tags: News (all tags)

With the recent ruling of the Appeals Court, which (contrary to most reports) did not "overturn" Judge Jackson's antitrust verdict, Microsoft may soon find itself besieged on all sides by the pressure for a new antitrust trial (by the state Attorneys General, if nobody else), as well as by dozens, perhaps hundreds, of private lawsuits. What to do? Bob Cringely has an unusual idea...perhaps Microsoft would not only move out of the country, but declare itself a sovereign nation! Is he crazy? Or is Bill Gates just crazy enough to pull a stunt like this? Read his article and judge for yourself.

Cringely opines that, for a total cost of less than $3 billion, Microsoft could buy a small country (he cites Belize as an example), pay off its national debt, and build luxury housing for all his employees. No doubt Gates'd have to kick in another billion or so for infrastructure improvements (putting in a bunch of OC-12s and the like), but, given that Microsoft is sitting on something like $30 billion in cash, it's still do-able.

What would they gain by this? Well, the company/nation would be able to thumb its nose at the Sherman Antitrust Act once and for all. Gates and other top Microsoft executives might even enjoy diplomatic immunity on their visits back to America. The move would also stir up a good deal of PR, as Gates could indignantly say, "Look what the U.S. Government forced me to do!" The existing residents of Belize (or whatever target country Microsoft chooses) might even be in favor of such a move, hoping it would lead to an increased standard of living. Most insidiously, as a member of the community of nations, Microsoft would be in an even more powerful position to push for international treaties, such as the hated WIPO treaty (which spawned the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act), that would give it greater protection at the expense of the rights of consumers.

On the downside, as this comment on Plastic points out, the move could also generate PR the other way, as they lose the image of "an all-American success story." And there's no guarantee all their developers would want to make an international move just to follow Bill. Then, too, Gates would be taking the chance that the U.S. Government, instead of sending lawyers, would just send in troops, bombers, and Tomahawk cruise missiles. (Don't be so quick to laugh at that thought...remember what happened after the embassy bombings in Africa.) The U.S. and/or other countries might push for U.N. sanctions as well. (No doubt Linux developers all over the world would cheer the thought of an international embargo against Microsoft.)

Does it scare anyone else that a company would even have the resources and motivation to consider something like this? Is anyone else reminded of certain William Gibson novels? Or is Cringely just blowing smoke here?


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Which country would you rather live in?
o People's Republic of Microsoft 4%
o Dominion of AOL Time Warner 1%
o Free Republic of GNU 35%
o Apple Democratic Republic 5%
o I'll take my chances living where I am now, thank you 34%
o Kuro5hinite Kingdom of Inoshiro 18%

Votes: 95
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Bob Cringely
o Read his article
o Belize
o this comment on Plastic
o Also by Erbo

Display: Sort:
Microsoft as a Sovereign Nation? | 46 comments (42 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
Anti-trust... (4.14 / 7) (#1)
by univgeek on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 08:37:15 PM EST

I am not sure that anti-trust laws are not valid simply because the company is off-shore. The EU recently opposed the merger of GE and Honeywell. Isnt GE an American company?

The other point is that there is no need for the developers to move off-shore. Simply do your development via the Net. Works for Linux, why not for MS? Why with the amount of money he's got he can build his own pricate MSInternet (TM) ! This would be cheaper than puling all those people to, say Belize.

And what do you think will stop the US govt from declaring war on MS territory? As I see it NOTHING. If they can invade Iraq over oil, they will invade MS over trade. The reason some in the govt. are partial towards MS is that MS pays quite a bit toards campaign funds. As an off-shore company, they cant do that and they will lose quite a large advantage...

All that aside, it is quite a sobering thought that they can actually do this

On second thought, nearly every MNC can do this, so its actually no big deal is it?

Arguing with an Electrical Engineer is liking wrestling with a pig in mud, after a while you realise the pig is enjoying it!

Not offshore company a country (3.50 / 6) (#7)
by Carnage4Life on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 09:48:06 PM EST

I am not sure that anti-trust laws are not valid simply because the company is off-shore. The EU recently opposed the merger of GE and Honeywell. Isnt GE an American company?

The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 isn't applicable to countries only companies. So Cringely is suggesting that Microsoft creates its own country with Bill Gates as the head of state and the employees as its citizens.

Probably one of the more ridiculous ideas I've heard in a while.

[ Parent ]
It wouldn't suprise me (3.66 / 6) (#3)
by smallstepforman on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 08:45:53 PM EST

One thing that we have learned from history (have we?) is that the power mongers, that is, the Forces That Be(tm) have engaged in various political moves to bolster and stabilise their political power. Nations have split due to secession, empires have crumbled and split in two, brothers to the throne have split and formed fractions which today exist as seperate nations. 1000 years ago it was the most ruthless axe weilding chieftans which formed kingdoms, today its the industrial and economic elite. If Gates, Allen and Ballmer can pull it off, all the power to them (and good luck!!!). It will probably be one of the first cases in human history in which a nation is forged without bloodshed. Knowing Micorsoft, such a nation will be a rich haven in which we will all desire to move to (and I'm a BeOS zealot, but thats irrelevant).

The real issue here is "why do nations actually exist?" I had no choice of choosing which cultral group I wished to belong to when being born, and my entire cultral, ethical and moral views on life are reflected and influenced by the coincidence of my birth place. Being born into a society which was not formed by bloodshed would indeed be an interesting one.

Without Bloodshed? (5.00 / 2) (#31)
by J'raxis on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 11:21:45 AM EST

You're right, this would be one of the first countries formed without bloodshed -- it would be, as far as I know, the first nation formed by buying off the current ruling body. However, what makes you think that the people of the country wouldn't revolt against having their government sell out to a foreign company? Especially after the new government, Microsoft, sets up a new aristocratic elite (the emigrating programmers with the $20,000 condos) to rule over the commoners in the nation.

If this were to work, their best bet would be to buy a small, unihabited island from an existing nation (say, something in the Pacific), and try to develop and populate that themselves.

-- The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

Or a space station ... (4.20 / 5) (#5)
by joegee on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 09:13:20 PM EST

or a Goldfinger minijet. James Bond to the rescue?

This topic might provoke some interesting discussion, but I suspect that the chance of Microsoft going it alone as a country is pretty miniscule.

The Sherman Act might not apply, but do you know what kind of problems trade regulators could impose on a Republic of Microsoft? Unfair competition? As I recall for trade negotiations no court procedures are necessary to deal with disputes. Congress can simply ban the import of products, or impose tariffs, or mandate the use of a competing operating system in all government systems, or subsidize alternate operating systems, or start restricting the flow of items going out to the country with whom they are having disputes ... items like food. :)

Ask Saddam Hussein what you get when you piss off the Western powers. The Iraqi people might not mind, but a bunch of tenderfoots from the "wilds" of suburban Seattle would probably not enjoy middle of the night air raids, international sanctions, and a loss of control over much of their territory.

In additon, if Microsoft had to go it as a country their security practices would have to improve dramatically. They would have to have a military, and a police force. They would have to defend their borders. They would have to negotiate trade agreements (developers might breathe code, but they cannot eat software.)

Building a country not only costs lots of money (weapons systems alone can cost billions of dollars) but it takes years of hard work. You not only have domestic infrastructure to build to make the emigrating developers happy, you also have a significant bureaucracy to implement, not to mention the attendent service personnel, and the required overseas diplomatic representatives.

Microsoft have a hard enough time managing the Redmond campus, I do not think they want to take on handling an entire country. :)

<sig>I always learn something on K5, sometimes in spite of myself.</sig>
Is Cringley an idiot? (3.22 / 9) (#6)
by Carnage4Life on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 09:43:15 PM EST

The notion that Microsoft would just up and move to some desert island to avoid anti-trust proceedings is so ridiculous that it doesn't deserve a rational answer because that makes the idea seem reasonable. Here's my rational counterpoint.
Microsoft's value is in the intellectual property of its employees. Most of them would not leave the U.S. for some desert island just to avoid the anti-trust suit. Anybody who believes otherwise has a long way to go before they understand how human nature works.

Intellectual property depends on government! (4.50 / 2) (#36)
by swr on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 06:04:09 PM EST

Microsoft's value is in the intellectual property of its employees. Most of them would not leave the U.S. for some desert island just to avoid the anti-trust suit.

Microsoft's value is in it's intellectual property, period. Patents, trademarks, copyrighted works.

If MS moved to another country, the USA couldn't very easily just implement a trade embargo, as some here have suggested. USA (among others) is dependant on MS software for the functioning of the economy.

What the government could do is cease enfocement of MS's intellectual property rights. That 128MB Celeron 633 that is $250 without Windows and $375 with, would be $250 including Windows. With MS stripped of their IP rights the OEM's could install all the MS software they want with no obligation to send MS a single cent. The goverment could "cut off their air supply".

One could argue that the government could never do that, because of international treaties. But by that argument, Bush could never implement a national missle defense either. I doubt other countries would protest MS being stripped of their IP rights because they would also stand to benefit (fewer dollars exported). With the help of a new law or two, lawyers might even be able to find a graceful way to do it without violating any international treaties.

In short, MS is completely dependant on the government for their survival. Jilting that government in a big way would be a fatal mistake.

On the other hand, MS might just be arrogant enough to try it.

[ Parent ]
Except (none / 0) (#39)
by physicsgod on Sun Jul 08, 2001 at 02:34:08 AM EST

That patents, Copyrights, etc. exist because of the governments. If Microsoft became its own country their intellectual property wouldn't be covered by US law. Which means the very name microsoft(maybe, is there any law against naming your company after another nation?) and Windows would become fair game again, plus you could reverse-engineer the code, or even steal it outright.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
humorous at first thought, but idiocy in reality (4.40 / 10) (#8)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 10:21:30 PM EST

Let's say that Microsoft does move to Belize. They don't have to worry about trustbusters, being brought up on anti-competitive law suits, etc. They're home free.

Until they realize that most of their customer base is on the other side of an international border and their retail and wholesale products are now subject to tarriffs and excise taxes.


If you think Uncle Sam gets nasty with trustbusting monopolies, you haven't been on the receiving end of a trade war. . .

Interesting... (4.80 / 5) (#10)
by Giant Space Hamster on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 10:54:18 PM EST

Consider that when the FTAA goes through, Belize will almost certainly be a signatory to it. That should negate most effects of the border.

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.
-- Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]
It's not that cut-and-dried. (4.50 / 2) (#34)
by marlowe on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 11:38:57 AM EST

Sorry to burst your bubble, but Microsoft can easily get around this by accelerating their move from shrinkwrap to services. They make the binaries of all their software available over the Internet, with licensing enforcement code built in so it needs permission from Microsoft/Belize to keep running.

This could actually work if we do't successfully fight it. I see three possible ways to fight it successfully:

1) Cut Belize off from the Internet. But this would set a very bad precedent for large-scale censorship.

2) Organize a massive boycott of Microsoft products/services. But we're going up against the inertia of human stupidity here.

3) Warez d00dz! Crack those babies!

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Another idea (4.50 / 2) (#35)
by EriKZ on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 01:28:11 PM EST

Simply make all debts to Microsoft unenforacable. Like that gambling thing down under.

[ Parent ]
$30 billion NOT in cash (2.70 / 10) (#9)
by localroger on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 10:41:02 PM EST

Microslothed is only worth $30 billion (or whatever the current figure is) on paper. That is the theoretical value of its stock if traded at current levels. The reality is, if any significant fraction of that stock were to be dumped suddenly (and $3 billion would surely meet that rubicon), it would trigger a selloff and inevitable price reductions. How much cash could Microslothed really raise? It's hard to tell, but I'm betting their business would be in serious trouble long before they raised $1 billion in truly liquid negotiables.

OTOH maybe it would be a good thing if uSlothed moved to Belize. Then we could take them out cleanly and efficiently with a single H-bomb, without even worrying about the nearby large American city.

I can haz blog!

Not quite (4.85 / 7) (#13)
by Wah on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 11:35:08 PM EST

actually I have heard of that $30B "war chest" a number of times. Their Market Capitalization, which is what I think you are talking about is $368.7B

Ahh yes, here it is.

Microsoft's war chest of cash and short-term investments expanded to $30 billion from $26.9 billion from the end of the second quarter.
Some things, bandwidth can't buy. For everything else, there's Real Life | SSP
[ Parent ]

Ouch, bitten by that zero (3.66 / 3) (#30)
by localroger on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 10:08:07 AM EST

Gawd, it is just amazing how far you can get when you set out to write slow, crappy bug-ridden BASIC interpreters for 8-bit computers. Sheesh. The mind simply refuses to accept. You are quite right and now I'm depressed :-(

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

two words (4.28 / 7) (#11)
by radar bunny on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 10:55:21 PM EST

import duties

i think it was Justice John Marshall who said "the power to tax is the power to destroy," and everyone would want to tax the well of wealth that is microsoft and they'd do it in the form of import duties. This would ultimately create another problem because it would first drive the price of MS products through the roof and then make illegal copying of MS products not only more wide spread but it would be harder for MS to enforce because they wouldn't have the U.S. government to somewhat hide behind. That is other countries are going to be some what simpathetic to microsofts actions if for no other reason than diplomacy's sake. They become independant, they loose al of that.

I'd live in (4.33 / 6) (#12)
by John Milton on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 11:27:50 PM EST

I had to vote for the Dominion of AOL Time Warner. After all, I think there are more chicks with Aol, and it would be cool to hear "you've got taxes."

"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton

I'd have to agree (4.50 / 2) (#20)
by b0r3d on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 04:31:13 AM EST

Have you seen their TV commercial? They basically brag about their mega-corp status ("We do it all, from the hardware, to the bandwidth, to the software, to the content. We will control your minds, dammit." Okay, so I paraphrase).

Microsoft certainly dominates the software portion of that spectrum, and can heavily influence the hardware section, it has MSN for bandwidth (but failed to buy Comcast way back when), and is pretty weak for content compared to AOL Time Warner, so Microsoft needs to play a little bit of catch-up.

[ Parent ]

Doubtful this would get legal sanction (5.00 / 5) (#14)
by cthugha on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 11:44:15 PM EST

It's an interesting idea, but I doubt it would get up in practice. International law recognizes corporations as objects created by states and having their home state's nationality, just like nationals (citizens) of that state. There are four basic criteria you have to satisfy to be a state (the Montevedeo criteria): permanent population, fixed population, government and the capactiy to enter into relations with other states. The simple fact is that states are the principal holders of rights and obligations under international law; individuals and international organizations (such as the UN) do have rights and obligations, but only because states have conferred such rights through treaties and other instruments.

The exact rights and obligations of corporations aren't clear, but they certainly wouldn't be recognized as being able to enter into relations with other states, and I doubt they would be recognized as a legitimate government (corporations are the creations of governments, not the other way around). As soon as Microsoft took over Belize (or wherever), it would be clear to everbody that Belize had just lost its independent sovereignty under international law, and that other states could do as they damn well please with respect to Belize(invade, impose sanctions, etc). Microsoft could pull a stunt like this only on the sufferance of the governments of the great powers, and given the bad PR generated by such a move, those governments would be relatively free in being extremely unfriendly towards Microtania.

Whoops! Errata. (5.00 / 2) (#18)
by cthugha on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 01:15:56 AM EST

Did I say "permanent population, fixed population"? Damn! Damn, damn, damn. What I meant was "permanent population, defined territory". Apologies. Must learn to think before I post :-(.

[ Parent ]
Yeah, but... (4.00 / 2) (#33)
by marlowe on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 11:32:52 AM EST

if the corporation takes over the entire country, they can maintain the distinction between corporation and country as a convenient legal fiction. They can just refer to themselves as "Belize" whenever it's convenient to do so.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Blatant absurdities don't hold (4.00 / 2) (#38)
by cthugha on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 11:56:37 PM EST

The trouble with such obvious legal fictions is that they just don't hold up when you test them in court. As an example, the Nazis attempted to avoid any international legal responsibility towards the nationals of the countries they invaded by 'revoking' their nationality. This arose because the only protection for individual human beings under international law at that time was the law of diplomatic protection. This allowed a national's state to make a claim against another state which had poorly treated that national while within its jurisdiction. The Nazis thought that by removing the nationality of those they persecuted, no state would have a cause of action against them. That didn't stop the international community from trying Nazi war criminals, and the absurdity has since been cured.

An analogous situation in municipal law would be the concept of the shell coroporation. Courts are quite prepared to pierce the coroporate veil and do a number of other things they wouldn't normally do when dealing with a corporation that is clearly a front and has no actual business purpose.

Basically, the law isn't like software: it isn't as blindly deterministic as you might think. It adapts, within clear bounds, to try and meet these novel situations that people throw at it to try and avoid their obligations or get something they shouldn't have.

[ Parent ]
DeBeers. (4.80 / 5) (#16)
by Anonymous 6522 on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 12:49:32 AM EST

IIRC DeBeers (the "Diamonds are Forever" people) cannot do business in the US because they are considered to have a monopoly on diamond production. All the DeBeers diamonds that end up in the US have to go through intermediate distributors. I assume this is the situation that Microsoft would end up in if they decided to relocate, and it would put them at a disadvantage. DeBeers can control most of the world's diamond mines, but software isn't mined, and anyone with the right skills can make it.

Microsoft software would come to the US through middlemen, and those middlemen would want to make money selling it. The US government might also want to put tariffs on the importation of software from Microsoftland. This means ether increased prices, or less profit for Microsoft.

Job Offer: (4.33 / 3) (#17)
by Elkor on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 12:56:39 AM EST

Work for a large international company, either telecommuting from the comfort of your own home, or working on our tropical campus location.

Experience: 3-5 years programming/networking, B.S. Computer Science. C, C++, Visual Suite, pref.

Compensation: Top industry salaries, 401k, dental/medical, surfing/sailing lessons.

Some people have said that M$ couldn't get programmers to move. I disagree. How many people honestly would give up the chance to work on a tropical island for 1-2 years? Especially if you didn't have to pay taxes on the income . M$ could easily exempt visa workers from having to pay taxes. I don't know whether they would have to pay USA taxes on their return, but I don't think so.

Especially if they opened up some beauty/nursing/predominately-female-career schools to encourage women to come to the island.

See, because M$ also has the ability to bribe governments with something it creates but costs "nothing" for it to do so. Throw on top of the above, the deal with the government to pay their tarriffs in program licenses to run on gov't computers.

I can see how it could work. :)

Heck, they might even get "favored nation status." China did...
(Sorry, low blow)


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
Why US? (4.40 / 5) (#19)
by enterfornone on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 03:01:17 AM EST

Why wouldn't they just get programmers from India or somewhere. I don't think US programmers are that much more talented than those from elsewhere.

efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Existing Knowledge Base (none / 0) (#40)
by Elkor on Mon Jul 09, 2001 at 08:42:05 AM EST

The ad was more an example of why current M$ programmers would consider relocating to a tropical island to work in Micro$soft Country.

You are probably right, when it comes to hiring completely new programmers they don't have to limit themselves to the USA.


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
Heh, heh... (none / 0) (#41)
by ksandstr on Mon Jul 09, 2001 at 08:44:47 AM EST

From experience at my previous job, imported workers from India are exactly as incompetent as your average USAnian "IT worker". Both of the countries seem to follow a strict "quantity over quality" policy in that area...

[ Parent ]
Taxation, expatriation. (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by mindstrm on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 06:50:58 AM EST

Working on a small, tropical island for 1 or 2 years might not be quite the paradise you expect, especially if you are used to an American city. They are small, and there are not so many places to spend your money (other than leaving to go somewhere else) and you may not have time for that.

Also, and I'm not a US tax accountant/lawyer here, but...
US Income Tax is based on citizenship. If you work outside the country for 2 years, I believe you will still have to file and pay tax on your income, though there may be some breaks if you are totally removed from the US (no property, dependents, car, etc in the US).

I run across this at work. As a Canadian, my tax status is based on residency; so long as I am not considered a resident of Canada, my income is not taxable. The Americans I work with still all have to file and pay though.

It's doubtful a small island would allow foreign workers to dominate a local business and have it's workers not pay any income taxes, unless the company struck a deal with the government. It's a moot point though; if you moved, there would be salary re-negotiation. Anyone who looks at their pre-tax salary and then looks for a 'reduced tax rate' is looking at things the wrong way when negotiating a salary; you should take into account how much of your income is taxed, and what your take-home will actuall be. Some places, like Antigua, I think have very small income taxes (3% - 5% or something) which is about as good as paying none at all.

[ Parent ]
Taxes... (none / 0) (#42)
by Elkor on Mon Jul 09, 2001 at 08:48:41 AM EST

As I said, I don't know what the tax implications are for working outside of the country.

Even if you have to pay USA Federal taxes, you should be able to avoid state taxes. Not as much, I realize, but it is still several thousand a year.

As for the location situation, you are right, it is unlikely you could replicate a large US city. But I know a fair number of contracters who regularly move away from their families, work constantly and don't worry about "social" activities. Instead they save money like crazy and visit on a regular basis.

I'm not trying to say that you can get EVERYONE to move out to this island. But right now you couldn't get everyone to work for M$. And you can probably get enough people...

"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
Won't happen. (5.00 / 3) (#21)
by decaf_dude on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 04:40:32 AM EST

I've tried to explain this to idiots before, when there was rumour that MSFT might move over to Canada. IT WON'T HAPPEN!

By moving out of US, they'd become a foreign company and would hence lose their current vendor status with the US govt. - Uncle Sam is not happy to buy things from foreign companies. Pulling figures out of my arse, I'd say MSFT would see at least 25% cut in their revenues as a direct and immediate consequence of that. Then add to that the dissolvement of beefy contracts with DoD's contracting companies, such as GE, Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, all of whom work with highly sensitive data and are most certainly required by the DoD to use only US Fed. Govt. approved software, which MSFT would no longer be.

Now with the snowball rolling, you add up additional taxes, excise, import restrictions, etc. and MSFT would end up a minor player in IT within a few years.

I have no doubt Bill Gates has monarchy ambitions, although I very much doubt he has his sights set on anything else but the USA. At the rate he's going, I see nothing stopping him...


Multinationals have a problem in the US? (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by momocrome on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 05:41:25 AM EST

Last time I checked, Royal Dutch Shell, Ericsson, Nokia or Motorola, Sony, Mitsubishi, Samsung, Toshiba, BMW, Daimlier-Chrysler, Honda Motors, Alcatel and Seagram's had no trouble whatsoever dominating their respective US markets...

The point is, a company can headquarter any number of places and still participate within the geographic US 'and all that that implies'. Microsoft as a multinational is not so entirely untennable as you seem to suggest.

"Give a wide berth to all that foam and spray." - - Lucian, The Way to Write History
[ Parent ]

Indeed, but... (4.00 / 6) (#23)
by decaf_dude on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 06:02:55 AM EST

Sony is what it is because it makes superior consumer electronics, Nokia's mobile telephones are best bar none, BMW is The Ultimate Driving Machine®, Daimler-Chrysler is the mother company of Mercedes-Benz (need I say more?), Honda makes cars for the rest of us, Samsung is one of largest microprocessor manufacturers in the world...

See the pattern here? These companies managed to gain a dominant position in the US and other world markets because of superior products. I don't want to get into discussion on HOW EXACTLY Microsoft got where it is right now, but it sure as hell isn't because any one of their products (ever) is/was better than competition.

Microsoft is a company that came to be as a result of an exclusive deal with IBM (it helps to have a multi-million dollar trust fund and family ties with members of IBM's Board of Directors). That is their root, that is how they do business, and that will never change. I've always said the best way to ruin Microsoft is to force them to compete on quality/innovation basis.


[ Parent ]
faith issues aside, (3.25 / 4) (#28)
by momocrome on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 07:06:56 AM EST

Microsoft makes the best general purpose workstation software available. I say this with confidence because I've tried everything from solaris to macos to blahblahlah, just like most of us here at k5, I'm sure. Regardless of the twisted underpinnings to Microsoft's success, the fact remains that Windows provides the best hardware support, the best software support, the best memory and storage management (win2k) and so on. Whatever alleged wickedness they did to arrive at this position is immaterial to the assertion that their stuff is the most useful choice out there. Thus, they represent a sort of high bar for the industry, as is implicit in almost any discussion on alternative OSs.

But enough of all that. It is easy enough for me to take the other position in this argument. I've heard all of it before, ad nauseum on slashdot. To get back to your original suggestion that Microsoft would not be able to function as a multinational based in Belize, coinsider that a large bulk of the company already resides in the UK and India. These aren't just regional sales offices either- these are official campuses with a full range of endeavors taking place.

With 3 billion dollars, MS could incorporate in Belize, give their 30,000 necessary employess some lush dwellings (down to the gold plated garden spigots) and still have enough left over to spend on an international airport and full control of the Belize government.

Microsoft would certainly find themselves subject to stringent US trade policies, but you should keep in mind two things: One, there is a massive industry grown up around Microsoft these days. Hundreds of Thousands of highly skilled US workers rely on that platform for a living. Two, the WTO is working day and night in their dark lair to remove any trade barriers they can find.

Last but not least, consider: even if the US market were closed against them, there's all the rest of the world, 20 times the population of the US, and all of them would just love to idle away their hours on the internet, just like us.

"Give a wide berth to all that foam and spray." - - Lucian, The Way to Write History
[ Parent ]
You're still missing the point (4.33 / 3) (#37)
by decaf_dude on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 11:26:17 PM EST

If you think that simply producing a superior consumer OS that runs on commodity platform would de-seat Microsoft from its monopolistic throne, you obviously never heard of OS/2, BeOS, GEOS, and few others. The fact is that these OS were killed in the cradle not by consumer choice but by Microsoft's strong-arm tactics with OEMs and software resellers.

Or are you insinuating that for the past 15 years nobody but Microsoft was smart enough to create an OS for the masses?

The only reason behind current Linux success, despite its severe shortcomings when it comes to the "great unwashed", is its underpinning philosophy - the GPL. For years FreeBSD was a better OS (not true anymore IMHO, but that's OT), yet it never managed to gather enough momentum.

As in any other industry, quality is not the chief factor for success. If you think it is, go for lunch to McDonalds and have dinner at Burger King, then tell me who makes a better burger and who is more successful. See?


[ Parent ]
It's not that they couldn't go multinational.. (5.00 / 2) (#25)
by mindstrm on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 06:46:12 AM EST

It's that it wouldn't prevent what they do in the US from falling under US Law. It could prevent their breakup, but could hurt revenue any number of other, perhaps easier ways.

[ Parent ]
Another problem... (4.00 / 1) (#44)
by Ken Arromdee on Mon Jul 09, 2001 at 10:19:30 AM EST

Which I've also heard in connection with the Canada idea has to do with declaring the value of imports. Microsoft likes to charge computer manufacturers for Windows whether they use it or not. If Windows was imported from another country, Microsoft would have to declare the value of the imports on a per-copy basis, making this harder.

[ Parent ]
Won't work... (4.50 / 2) (#24)
by mindstrm on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 06:44:20 AM EST

First, in moving to another country, what happens to the current stockholders? It would have to be clearly shown that such a move is in their best interests (and they would also have to agree to it.)

Second, yes, they could go to another country, where US law does not apply, and be safe from it, however.... as soon as they want to bring product into the US (and you can bet your butt they do), their product comes under US law. In effect, this could make it *easier* for the US courts to embargo/tarrif/whatever the software in order to foster local competition. It would make it much easier to paint them as the enemy, as they would no longer be creating jobs in the US, paying taxes in the US, or generally contributing to the US economy.

But it's all services in the future. (5.00 / 1) (#32)
by marlowe on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 11:30:18 AM EST

All you need to deliver services is a fast Internet connection. The only hard part is getting paid.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Hardly a new idea (5.00 / 2) (#29)
by kaatunut on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 07:18:59 AM EST

mslinux.org has had this "hot news" for at least a couple of years:

Microsoft Invades Cuba

Microsoft's plan to invade cuba and overthrow the government has succeeded. One Microsoft official said "It's a win-win situation. The US Government is happy and shuts up the DOJ while Microsoft institutes a monopoly within Cuba for everything from computer software to toilet paper. One more step closer to world domination. Heck, we could feed a whole development department for the cost of one developer's salary in the US. They may not know how to create an Operating System very well, but neither do our US developers."

there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls

A much more plausable alternative... (5.00 / 1) (#43)
by jd on Mon Jul 09, 2001 at 09:18:28 AM EST

  1. Microsoft ignores any rulings that the US courts -do- try to impose.
  2. The police move in, and somehow -stay- in, now wearing trendy-looking Microsoft Police sweatshirts.
  3. The army refuse to help, pointing out that it's a domestic matter.
  4. By this time, the DOJ's computer system is behaving very oddly. A strange, flicker can be seen on the screen. Slow-motion cameras suggest the use of subliminals, but this is dismissed as paranoia.
  5. The DOJ replaces all of its US flags with banners bearing Bill Gates' smiling face, on a blue background. Something that could be stars, or hexadecimal symbols, form a frame around the face.
  6. Other departments slowly succumb to this new trend.
  7. By a unanimous vote in both Houses and by all States, Bill Gates is declared Emperor, and the seat of power is moved from the White House to Microsoft HQ.
  8. Microsoft absolves itself of all guilt in all matters, and declares all references to the existance of a BSOD as a capital offence.

Contempt and So Forth (none / 0) (#45)
by Merk00 on Mon Jul 09, 2001 at 02:48:34 PM EST

Trying to move to avoid anti-trust prosecution would not be viewed very popularly by the American public. Microsoft isn't seen as oppressed so they can't play that card. Instead, they'll look like a fugitive on the run. If they plan to move, expect a court to place an injunction on them moving because of the pending anti-trust case. If they continue to attempt to move they'd be in contempt of court. If they still try and make a go of it, then it gets into the realm of criminal contempt for the officer's of the company. If they continue to try and move, it then becomes illegal flight to avoid prosecution. No one will look kindly on any of that. Even if Microsoft successfully pulled off buying out Belize, I doubt the United States would take kindly to it. The US could easily begin seizing any assets of Microsoft that were not in Belize. And also greatly restrict Microsoft's ability to conduct trade. Belize could easily be given an embarago because Microsoft could be seen to be usurping the rightful government of Belize. At that point Micrsoft is no longer a productive company and the whole scheme falls apart.

"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission

ms-military and BSOD (none / 0) (#46)
by phlux on Mon Jul 09, 2001 at 11:40:12 PM EST

Good - then they would have to keep a military, and it would be funny to see their military systems BSOD in times of dire need.

Microsoft as a Sovereign Nation? | 46 comments (42 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
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