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Doug's Mailbag: Thoughts on Google vs. China, More

Readers have plenty to say about the possibility of Google shuttering its Chinese operations over a dispute about that government's censorship practices:

I think Google would be doing the right thing to pull out of China. China continues to violate a lot of human rights, and its people are largely exploited due to the control the government exerts on its population. If they were a free people, they would learn their own worth and make more money. Our people would stop shopping at Wal Mart, our trade imbalance would even up, U.S. companies could export their goods, our employment would go up, and everything wrong with this picture would start to get righteous again.

Besides, if Google stays and censorship becomes an accepted practice, how long before the Obama-nation follows suit?

I'm rather annoyed that you published this blog with as little information as you did. This whole situation with Google and China extends far beyond the business scope of the geopolitical climate, and extends to inter-country relations. I would suggest that you specifically state how Google has been "[invading] privacy" for years. Also, I would like to remind you that iDefense and McAfee have released more information on the attack which you undermined by saying it was from a "Chinese group" to see what "dissidents were up to." McAfee and iDefense have said the attack is more sophisticated than any attack they have ever seen on any private company. They also said the attack was not just on Google; they say that 34 independent companies were attacked and even Google said in its blog that "intellectual property" was stolen. The companies go on to suggest that it was not simply a group in China that launched the attack, but it seems more likely that the Chinese government was behind it.

In my opinion, I think that Google's decision to change its policy in China is a retaliation to the attack. Ordinarily, cyberattacks are kept largely secret, and Google's decision to make this public could mean that it wants the Chinese people to see this all fold out and recognize how damaging their government's censorship laws are to freedom of information. However, to present the other side of the story, it is also possible that Google is making this public to provide a good reason for leaving China, where it is the No. 2 search engine behind China's (This is unlikely, though, because the Chinese market still accounts for a significant income.)

Although I applaud Google for taking a stand, I don't really buy its reason ("because this information goes to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech"). Financially, it really isn't a big deal for Google, at least over the next three to five years. Its projected revenues in China are minimal compared to the hoped-for migration of businesses and governments to Gmail. And Google realizes that it will not win those other accounts if its e-mail is easily hacked and it doesn't stand up against it. If you don't think so, reread their blog; the first bullet is essentially, "It's not only us."

Google has spun some negative publicity into positive by being proactive in finding the breaches (and notifying those other companies that weren't as smart as Google in figuring it out) and by taking a stand against human rights violations. This gives potential customers a warm-fuzzy about Google's security when it was actually breached. Not bad spin. Microsoft, on the other hand, has an enormous potential for sales (or savings of sales) in China. China helped save almost $2 billion in counterfeit sales by busting a pirate ring in 2007. I think MS would be pretty buddy-buddy with China over that, freedom of speech violations be damned. As always, follow the money.

Meanwhile, as Doug mentioned, several of you were quick to point out that Panasonic was largely a Lotus shop, anyway:

Further research reveals that Panasonic isn't switching from Exchange at all. Only 4 percent of their users were on Exchange, so that 300,000 users is more like 12,000 users being switched. The key point would be: How happy will these users be AFTER the switch from Exchange to LotusLive?

From my understanding, Panasonic has always been a Lotus Notes shop and only had a small percentage of their users on Exchange to begin with. The LotusLive deal might be a big deal for IBM, but it doesn't really seem to be a big deal for Microsoft. It may be a fundamental change, but not really a Lotus vs. Microsoft one.

eWEEK is reporting that Panasonic is not a massive Exchange shop, with only 4,000 Exchange users, and that they are on Lotus Notes already.

Regardless of the numbers, Mike thinks moving from Exchange to Lotus is a downgrade:

I used to work at an IT shop that used Lotus Notes for e-mail. It sucked. Unless they have made some major improvements since then, I wouldn't want anything to do with it. It was way overblown bloat-code for e-mail. I am much happier to be back on an Exchange server.

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment or e-mail [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/20/2010 at 1:17 PM


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