July, 2010

  • Google-Yahoo Redux: Why deal in Japan is worse than attempted 2008 deal

    By Dave Heiner
    Vice President and Deputy General Counsel

    In November 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice determined that a plan by Google to provide advertising next to just a portion of the search results on Yahoo’s competing search engine was illegal under the antitrust laws. Google wasn’t especially interested in the additional viewership for its ads—it already had massive ad volume—but rather in scuttling Microsoft’s efforts to combine with Yahoo to form a stronger competitor to Google in search.  Google was quite open about this.  When asked in September 2008 to name the most important development for Google in the preceding six months, Google’s Eric Schmidt replied “the Yahoo business deal . . . It was a setback for Microsoft.”  (Ken Auletta, Googled, 2009)

    History seems to be repeating itself, now on the other side of the Pacific. The two main search advertising platforms in Japan are run by Google and Yahoo Japan (which is controlled by Softbank Corp.)  Google plans to replace Yahoo Japan’s search advertising platform with its own, reducing the number of ad platforms in Japan to just one.  Google will take over the natural search results on Yahoo Japan too, replacing the Yahoo search service that Yahoo Japan had optimized for Japanese queries. The proposed deal will eliminate search competition in Japan—in paid advertising and natural search results. 

    Today Google accounts for about 51% of paid search advertising in Japan.  Yahoo Japan accounts for 47%.  Their combined share of natural search results is almost as high.  If Google is permitted to proceed with its plan, it would gain nearly complete control over search and search advertising in Japan through contract, not organic growth.  Google alone would decide what consumers in Japan will find, or not find, on the Web.  And Google will obtain massive amounts of data regarding the search history and Web sites visited by every consumer, business and government agency that conducts Web searches.

  • What’s New with Family Safety

    Posted by Caroline Curtin
    Policy Counsel, U.S. Government Affairs

    Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance, held a hearing on “Protecting Youths in an Online World.” On behalf of Microsoft, Julie Inman-Grant and I attended the hearing to support Microsoft’s continued commitment to finding ways to keep families safer online. Among other topics, there was an increased focus on the risks to the teen audience, and what the industry and others can do to increase awareness of risks and tools for this demographic and their parents.

    Today, the Windows Live Family Safety team blogged about what’s new with Family Safety, and it was exciting to read about how Family Safety is increasing its effort to not only keep younger children safer online, but teens as well. In the post, Microsoft Senior Product Manager, Phil Sohn, blogs about how he uses Family Safety to facilitate safer social networking for his own teenagers. Here’s part of what Phil has to say in the post:

  • The Dodd-Frank Act and Corporate Governance

    Posted by John Seethoff        
    Vice President and Deputy General Counsel

    Earlier this week President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act into law.  While the legislation is focused primarily on overhauling the U.S. financial regulatory system, the Act contains eight provisions addressing corporate governance and executive compensation that will have a significant impact on public companies.

    The Act writes another chapter in the discussion about shareholders voting on executive pay (commonly referred to as “say-on-pay”).  Last year, we considered two shareholder proposals for our 2009 annual meeting requesting an advisory vote on whether to implement “say-on-pay.” Instead we went a step further and held our first say-on-pay vote giving shareholders the opportunity to weigh in on the policies and practices for compensation of the Company’s top leaders.  Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel and senior vice president, Legal and Corporate Affairs details Microsoft's say-on-pay policy in the latest edition of Directors & Boards, one of the industry’s leading voices on governance matters.

  • Partnering for higher education excellence in Washington State

    Governor Gregoire has created a new Higher Education Task Force and asked me to serve as its chair.  In keeping with the task force approach, our group is scheduled to meet four times this summer and early fall to develop a long-term strategic approach to maximizing the impact and return our state receives on its investment in higher education.
    Our specific charges are (1) to develop a realistic and viable funding strategy that keeps higher education affordable for Washington students; (2) recommend ways to improve accountability for performance among our higher education institutions; and (3) examine whether the governance system for higher education could be updated to become more effective.
    The challenges are clear.  Our state is home to numerous employers, including Microsoft, that utilize great numbers of employees with higher education degrees.  The future of our state economy is directly tied to these high-skilled workers.  At the same time, our four-year institutions are at the low end in producing graduates with these types of skills and degrees.  And the state budget crisis has put additional financial pressure on all our colleges and universities, making it even harder for them to invest in programs to produce graduates ready to step into these high-demand fields.

  • Empowering Americans with Disabilities through Technology

    Posted by Laura Ruby
    Director, Accessibility Policy & Standards
    Yesterday the White House announced that the government will renew its commitment to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires access to the federal government's electronic and information technology for people with disabilities. The announcement was part of the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which gives 43 million Americans with disabilities the promise of equal access to all the benefits and advantages of society.
    Section 508 applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain or use electronic and information technology. Today’s announcement focused on ensuring better agency accountability and more responsibility for implementing Section 508 requirements, so that the benefits of information technology are made available to those with disabilities and to older people who often experience vision, hearing or dexterity impairments as they age.
    Accessible technology enables people with disabilities to access services and pursue education and employment in today’s competitive and connected digital workplace. It also helps business leaders and governments empower and retain top employees and aging workers. The United States has been a leader on accessibility, and many other countries look to Section 508 as a model. The law helps ensure a more vibrant and competitive technology industry, as the government’s commitment to adopt the most accessible technology products creates a powerful incentive for investment in accessibility improvements. To continue sending the right signals to industry, however, the government must set clear goals and guidelines, without favoring one technology or business framework over another. Also, agency staff who carry out the policy need sufficient training in how to use, evaluate and maintain accessible technology.

  • A New Forum for Africa

    Posted by Owen Linderholm
    Director, Microsoft on the Issues

    Our colleagues in Africa have launched an interesting new blog for discussion of social and economic development on that continent, which is advancing rapidly in its use of and contributions to information and communications technology.

    Having opened our first office in Africa in 1992, Microsoft now has more than 600 full-time staff and 17,000 partners there, working to innovate, expand access to technology, strengthen economies and address societal challenges. For a fresh perspective on the issues facing Africa and the world, check out Microsoft on the Issues Africa.

  • Technology and Innovation key to transforming Education

    Posted by Lauren Woodman
    General Manager of Government and Education Programs, Worldwide Public Sector

    Lauren Woodman
    Lauren Woodman

    This week Microsoft is hosting the Education Leaders Forum in Warsaw, Poland in conjunction with the 2010 Imagine Cup World Finals. Great event – great to bring together education leaders to talk about the role that education plays in building economic competitiveness, and particularly interesting to do so against the backdrop of the Imagine Cup Finals where so many great examples of innovation and the new perspective that students can bring to the  world are being celebrated.

    While we are inspired by the student projects at Imagine Cup, we can use that inspiration to spark discussion on serious issues with education leaders from all over the world. Nurturing a competitive economy is a challenge that all governments face, and we believe that a combination of information communication technology (ICT) and targeted policy focus will create the best possible environment for education to thrive and improve a country’s economic competitiveness.  This morning we all had a chance to hear from President of Microsoft International, Jean-Philippe Courtois about what he believes ICT can do to help people and organizations around the world reach their full potential. One thing that really resonated with me as I think of my work with schools and teachers all over the world as part of Microsoft Partners in Learning is the fact that,  in 5 years, more than 90% of all jobs will require ICT skills of some kind. This means that ICT education cannot be just for the traditional Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Design students any more, but for ALL students as they prepare for new careers.  You can read a summary of Jean-Philippe’s comments and all of the keynotes from the event at www.ELF2010.org.  

    Creating the right environment in which innovation and economic growth can occur is challenging and requires that policymakers look broadly at business, research, and workforce development areas.  Many times, these discussions are appropriately focused on how to train young people through university or vocational education for productive careers.  This is why we are so excited to hear that both in Europe & North America, some of our Microsoft technical certifications are being accredited to count for college credit by HETAC in Ireland and ACE in the US & Canada, as well as the new global availability of some of our most popular stepping stones to these courses, the Microsoft Technology Associate program.

    This is important work and cannot be overlooked.  But we must also not forget the critically important role of primary and secondary education in laying the best foundation for future success.  In my work, I have the privilege of working with teachers from around the world who recognize that their young students need more than just a solid foundation in reading, writing and arithmetic to be prepared for tomorrow.  They need new skills, like critical thinking, problem-solving, and the ability to work collaboratively, for example, to be ready for both the workplace and university.

  • KORUS Moves Forward; Impact on IT Industry

    Posted by Dorothy Dwoskin
    Senior Director of Global Trade Policy and Strategy

    The United States and South Korea are, once again, focused on realizing the benefits of enhanced trade and investment opportunities between our two countries.  This is great news! 

    President Obama and South Korea’s President Lee agreed, on the margins of the G-20 Summit, to put the US- Korea FTA (Free Trade Agreement) (also known as “KORUS”) on a path towards approval.  Trade Ministers are now working to meet the deadline of resolving outstanding issues by the time President Obama visits Seoul in November.    As President Obama said, “It is the right thing to do for our country.  It is the right thing to do for Korea.  It will strengthen our commercial ties and create enormous potential economic benefits and create jobs here in the United States, which is my number one priority.”  In Korea, there is a similarly strong sentiment about the importance of KORUS for the Korean economy.

  • Technology is the Catalyst for Change in the Public Sector

    Posted by Linda Zecher
    Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector

    This morning at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, DC, we had the privilege of welcoming former President Bill Clinton, who spoke about the need for sustainable systems and how IT can be a key catalyst in building a virtuous cycle of sustained social and economic development. He pointed out how the IT revolution has led the dramatic improvements in productivity, access to information, and prosperity for those at the top of the pyramid, but noted that for more than 5 billion people, the opportunity to learn, connect, create, and succeed remains elusive. He noted that the job of the 21st Century is to build up this inequality and said the most important question we need to answer in the next 20-40 years is “How?”.

    During the Worldwide Public Sector keynote this afternoon, we had the opportunity to expand on those some of the themes highlighting the opportunity for technology innovation. My team at Microsoft is working to spur discussions with educators, governments and a host of local and global partners about expanding access to relevant and affordable technology so that all communities can experience the benefits of social and economic opportunity. We want to help people answer the “how”; how to help governments become more efficient, engage citizens and create opportunities and jobs.

    Governments around the world are looking for game-changing answers in providing quality healthcare, keeping their people safe and secure, and educating their young people. They are looking for the best ways to spur local economic growth, create jobs and lay the foundation for long-term economic competitiveness. 

  • Highlighting the Economic Impact of Microsoft Partners

    Posted by Owen Linderholm
    Director, Microsoft on the Issues

    This week at the Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft executives are speaking with our more than 640,000 local partners around the world. Back in October, Pamela Passman blogged about the economic impact of Microsoft’s partner ecosystem, who together, generated more than $500 billion in revenues in 2009. One of our partners, Ramona Pierson, founder of SynapticMash, also shared her story about finding success in the ecosystem.

    As economic recovery remains a key priority for our nation, our partners are doing their part to fuel innovation and jobs in towns and villages, cities and states and countries and continents around the globe. For more info, check out Fred Humphries, on Politico: Collaboration brings opportunity and take a look at the Washington Post’s Cecilia Kang’s interview with Steve Ballmer. You can also check out our virtual press kit for the event on the Microsoft News Center.

  • Microsoft announces support for Code for America at Seattle event

    Posted by Dan Kasun
    Senior Director, Microsoft Developer and Platform Evangelism

    Over the past weekend, Microsoft announced support for Code for America at a dinner event in Seattle attended by Tim O’Reilly, CEO of O’Reilly Media, as well as local officials like Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and City Councilmember Bruce Harrell.  Code for America has embarked on a program to connect city governments with developers, and to foster strong collaboration and sharing between cities on technology solutions.  We believe that this type of initiative can help drive innovative applications in the city government space, help grow the workforce of qualified developers, and help drive efficiency through reuse and sharing of best practices and solutions.

    Here at Microsoft, we see the issues facing city governments and we believe that the power of software can help governments overcome these challenges and succeed in their missions.  However, there needs to be a strong base of developers who understand not only technology, but also government issues, infrastructure, organization, systems, and needs.  Another advantage is that broad collaboration between city governments can help them learn from solutions and experiences across the U.S.

  • Launch of the APEC 2011 Host Committee

    Posted by Craig Mundie
    Chief Research and Strategy Officer

    APEC 2011 USA Host Committee
    photo caption: Officials in Washington gathered at the Willard Hotel on July 14th, 2010, to launch the APEC 2011 USA Host Committee. Photo credit: BusinessWire.

    The United States this week took one more step forward in its plans to host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) year in 2011. Microsoft joined with Chevron, Federal Express, JP Morgan Chase, Procter & Gamble, Underwriters Labs, and Walmart as founding members of the 2011 private sector host committee. I am honored to chair the APEC 2011 Host Committee. [APEC membership is drawn from 21 countries on the Pacific Rim from Asia, Latin America and North America.]

    Hosting APEC in 2011 is a key opportunity for the United States to reassert its leadership on broad economic issues affecting not only business but also health, education and security in Asia. Secretary Clinton framed this opportunity perfectly in her speech in Hawaii earlier this year, when she said that “America’s future is linked to the future of the Asia‐Pacific region; and the future of this region depends on America.” We could not agree more.

    The 21 APEC economies represent 2.5 billion consumers and 60% of the world’s global income. For the United States, some 60% of our exports are destined for APEC economies. Our partnerships in Asia are essential to our economic growth.

    As the global economy begins to recover, we share with our partners in Asia the common objectives of creating jobs and economic opportunity to raise living standards. This is a crucial moment for U.S. leadership and the public-private partnership that we enjoy in America. For all of the companies involved, and for our country, hosting APEC 2011 is a pivotal event in U.S. engagement in this important region. We are committed to building and working in a strong partnership with the Administration and Congress to ensure successful outcomes for both government and the private sector throughout the year. With the Administration and Congress, including the important APEC Caucus in the House, we have put in place a three-way partnership for a successful APEC year in 2011.

    Joining us at the launch were U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and Representative Kevin Brady, a co-chair of the House Caucus on APEC, and Bob Hormats, Under Secretary of State for Agricultural, Economic and Business Affairs (insert others). All are outspoken leaders who are working to strengthen U.S. economic relations with our partners in the Asia Pacific.

  • A Giant Step for Workforce Training Collaboration

    Posted by Andrea L. Taylor
    Director, North America Community Affairs
    Last week the White House announced the inaugural grants of the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) that included the National Fund for Workforce Solutions (NFWS), as one of 11 award recipients. The two-year, $7.7 million award will fund an expansion of existing training programs in several of 23 NFWS sites and the establishment of 6-8 new sites.
    Displaced workers in America’s cities are the beneficiaries of the good news here.  The National Fund is already providing sector-based training for adults in cities such as Baltimore, Hartford, New York and Seattle and is developing best practices that can be replicated in other communities.  As an SIF recipient, the National Fund is uniquely positioned to help transform the way we cultivate talent in the U.S., especially for more than 80 million adults who struggle without 21st century skills that  align with today’s new knowledge economy.