Insisting that software piracy in China has become so pervasive that "there is no software market to speak of" in the fast-growing country, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said yesterday that enhanced enforcement in China of intellectual-property rules could save U.S. firms tens of thousands of jobs, Bloomberg reports.From a news article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek:
China's trade surplus with the U.S. widened in March, fuelling concern the yuan has been kept undervalued to support Chinese exports.
Better enforcement of intellectual property rules could save U.S. firms tens of thousands of jobs, Ballmer said.
"If the U.S. is going to export to Asia, it's going to export IP, whether it's in pharmaceuticals, technology," Ballmer said. "Otherwise the U.S. will have nothing to export."
Ballmer illustrated his point with this striking comparison: while India and South Korea both have large and growing economies, Ballmer said, China's gross domestic product is twice as large as both companies' GDPs combined. Yet Microsoft generates more revenue in each of those countries as it does in China, he said, before adding Indonesia as another country with better prospects for Microsoft than China.
"India is not perfect but the intellectual property protection in India is far, far better than it would be in China," the head of the world's largest software maker said in an interview in Hanoi, Vietnam, yesterday. "China is a less interesting market to us than India, than Indonesia."
Ballmer's broadside against Chinese piracy and its devastating impact on the software industry is reminiscent of equally scathing remarks made last year by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates in a Q&A session with computer-science students at Carnegie Mellon University (you can read the detailed account at Global CIO: Bill Gates Blasts China Over Corporate Software Policy). Here's an excerpt from Gates' comments on Chinese software piracy:
"What's unique to China is you have large businesses using software without paying for it. SUPER-profitable big businesses [he chuckles]. Take two of the five most-profitable businesses in China: they don't pay for their software.
"So that's a case where the Chinese have done something quite unique [he chuckles again; huge laughter and applause from audience]. But, I'm not complaining about it-I'm, you know, a big fan of China [big smile from Gates; big laugh from the audience], and a lot of great things are going on there [another big smile, and more audience laughter and applause], but, y'know, we've all got things to work on."
Meanwhile, from the Bloomberg piece, here's a comment from an official in the Chinese government about allegations of rampant software piracy in his country: "China's effort at strengthening protection of intellectual property is universally recognized."
"Universally recognized?" Right-but only if Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates are operating in alternative universes.