Microsoft and Hewlett Packard’s executives have both admitted that they won’t be backing Google’s stance in China, after it revealed this week that it had been the target of a major attack.
Despite Google having received word of support from both Yahoo and the White House when it announced that it would no longer be censoring content on its Chinese services, Microsoft and HP have both gone in the opposite direction. Indeed, according to the Financial Times, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer essentially admitted that China was a big enough market to be worth the headaches.
Perhaps more surprising still is a statement from Steve Ballmer, which gives some impression of the degree to which Microsoft is invested in the Chinese market. Ballmer said of the current situation and the events leading up to Google’s current situation in China,
“Every large institution is being hacked… I don’ think it’s a fundamental change in the security environment on the internet.”
It’s certainly an interesting situation, and one we’d imagine we’ll be hearing about for a long while yet. Still, having support from Microsoft would have strengthened Google’s cause immeasurably. If each of the top three search engines (to say nothing of their various other enterprises) had taken a stance against censorship in China then it would have at least provided a unified front, even if nothing was achieved in the long run.
Still, given the size of the market that China represents, it’s hard to see too many companies taking up arms against it. The fact is that there’s a lot of money to be made, and if that means bending over backwards then that’s what many will have to do.