As the saying goes: It's not personal, it's just business. And Microsoft seems to be spewing that message as the fallout from Google's threat to pull out of China continues.
So what if China is censoring the flow of information on the Internet. So what if there are allegations of human rights abuse. And who cares if the government - either by association or turning a blind eye - seems to be unconcerned about cyber attacks originating from behind the Great Wall? There's plenty of money to be made in China - and looking the other way on controversial subjects is really the only way to tap into it.
According to a Reuters report, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates laid it on the line during an interview with ABC's Good Morning America when he said: "You've got to decide: Do you want to obey the laws of the countries you're in, or not? If not, you may not end up doing business there."
For Microsoft, China is simply a business market. If a company wants to business there, it will have to play by the rules. And, in fact, the censorship rules there are "very limited" and "easy to go around." CEO Steve Ballmer essentially said that last week during a Q&A session with oil execs. Today, Gates backs him up.
For Google, though, it clearly isn't so easy. The company - which touts its "Don't Be Evil" motto - clearly has more on its mind than just the bottom line. Sure, Google could be handing us a line about China, especially since it hasn't really made big gains in that market yet. But that would be an incredibly bold position to take just to score some brownie points as a do-gooder.
I commend Google for standing up to the global bully and threatening to walk away from the biggest growth market on the planet (though we'll see if the company actually follows through with that threat.) But I can't blame Microsoft for taking its position either.
After all, it's not personal. It's business. And knowing Microsoft, I never expected that company to be the one to sacrifice money for the sake of doing good.