Microsoft’s investigation into allegations that the code for the new MSN China Juku social networking feature was stolen has ended with an admission by the contractor that it was "copied" apparently from a startup called Plurk. As a result, MSN China will be suspending Juku indefinitely. Michael Arrington at TechCrunch gets the best line award for:
Fiirst, Microsoft is standing around with their pants around their ankles looking pretty ridiculous right now. And second, this is the best thing to happen to Plurk, ever.
Reports surfaced yesterday that MSN China’s new Juku social networking feature bore more than a passing resemblance to a small social network site named Plurk. MSN China’s Juku feature has now been put on hold while Microsoft investigates:
Here’s what we know at this point. Our MSN China joint venture contracted with an independent vendor to create a feature called MSN Juku that allowed MSN users to find friends via microblogging and online games. This MSN Juku feature was made available to MSN China users in November and is still in beta.
Because questions have been raised about the code base comprising the service, MSN China will be suspending access to the Juku beta feature temporarily while we investigate the matter fully.
And yes, MSN China is a joint venture between Microsoft and a near-governmental entity, Shanghai Alliance Investment Ltd., which is the investment company of Jiang Mianheng, the son of a former president of China.
The good news is that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was in Vietnam to sign a software deal requiring all of Vietnam’s government offices to use licensed software. Later in the day he was at the ceremony where the state-run Vietindebank signed up for 6,000 Microsoft licenses.
As I’ve mentioned before, this seems to be part of Microsoft’s “gentle” strategy in dealing with governments of countries where piracy is rampant. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vietnamese government got quite a break on the deals.
The bad news is that Microsoft’s antipiracy efforts have drawn a strike by retailers in India:
Computer dealers in India are growing increasingly agitated at Microsoft’s attempts to clamp down on the use of pirated software in the country.
Dealers in the western state of Gujarat went on strike last week to protest notices served by Microsoft to 13 dealers, accusing them of shipping pirated copies of Windows with their computers. They now hope to extend the action to other states.
Bharat Randeri, president of the South Gujarat Information Technologists Association (SITA), said it is never a policy at computer dealers in the state to install pirated software. “We are not installing pirated software on the computers we sell,” he said on Monday.
However, he admitted that individual staff sometimes install pirated software at the request of customers. Some customers want to use pirated software because the price of legal software is too high for them, Randeri said.
SITA hopes to extend its strike action to other states and is prepared to try and pressure Microsoft into withdrawing its complaint notices.
What we have here is a failure to communicate.
Last but not least (and not strictly Asian), the crackers apparently have developed a clean hack for Vista copy protection. Microsoft says it is studying the problem.
Microsoft did its bit for the Chinese government publicity tour to the USA by once again publicizing its OEM deal with Lenovo even though the details for the upcoming year haven’t really been worked out yet. The nominal figure is reputed to be “as much as” $1.3B which would be up slightly from last year’s $1.2B and, of course, it includes other markets besides China. The upside for Microsoft, besides helping out a pal, is that the mutual backscratching with the Chinese government keeps them focused on piracy reduction.