Microsoft's lack of multicultural savvy cost the Redmond behemoth millions of dollars, according to a company executive.
The software giant has seen its products banned in some of the biggest
markets on earth--and it's all because of eight wrongly colored pixels,
a dodgy choice of music and a bad English-to-Spanish dictionary.
Speaking at the International Geographical Union congress in Glasgow on
Wednesday, Microsoft's top man in its geopolitical strategy team, Tom
Edwards, revealed how one of the biggest companies in the world managed
to offend one of the biggest countries in the world with a software
When coloring in 800,000 pixels on a map of India, Microsoft colored
eight of them a different shade of green to represent the disputed
Kashmiri territory. The difference in greens meant Kashmir was shown as
non-Indian, and the product was promptly banned in India. Microsoft was
left to recall all 200,000 copies of the offending Windows 95 operating
system software to try and heal the diplomatic wounds. "It cost
millions," Edwards said.
Another social blunder from Microsoft saw chanting of the Koran used as
a soundtrack for a computer game and led to great offence to the Saudi
Arabia government. The company later issued a new version of the game
without the chanting, while keeping the previous editions in
circulation because U.S. staff thought the slip wouldn't be spotted,
but the Saudi government banned the game and demanded an apology.
Microsoft then withdrew the game.
The software giant managed to further offend the Saudis by creating
another game in which Muslim warriors turned churches into mosques.
That game was also withdrawn.
Microsoft has also managed to upset women and entire countries. A Spanish-language version of Windows XP,
destined for Latin American markets, asked users to select their gender
between "not specified," "male" or "bitch," because of an unfortunate
error in translation.
Microsoft has also seen its unfortunate style of diplomacy have an
effect in Korea, Kurdistan, Uruguay and to China--where a
cartographical dispute saw Chinese employees hauled in front of the
Edwards said that staff members are now sent on geography courses to
try to avoid such mishaps. "Some of our employees, however bright they
may be, have only a hazy idea about the rest of the world," he said.
Silicon.com's Jo Best reported from London.