back to article Beijing IT biz taunts Microsoft: Show us your licence for Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 customers could be in for a tricky time in China after a Beijing IT company called on Redmond to prove it has the legal authority to operate in the country or risk being blocked. Enterprise IT service provider and Microsoft customer Baihui Zongheng Technology made the calls at a press conference at the China …

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I'm actually all for this

Has the EU deigned to squeak about how cloudy services sit with data protection? I don't remember any such squeak hitting the headlines.

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Re: I'm actually all for this

Yes, http://ec.europa.eu/justice/data-protection/article-29/documentation/opinion-recommendation/files/2012/wp196_en.pdf

The problem for the EU is that DP authority is derogated to the members and it is for the national DP authorities/governments to control.

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Re: I'm actually all for this

Also I can't remeber for certain but there might have been specific provisions for cloud computing in the new EU Directive.

Don't forget that the current DP directive is thick end of 20 yrs old so isnt fit for purpose any longer given the advances in technology.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm actually all for this

They're actually trying to adjust the EU framework to bring some sanity into the provisions, but at the moment this process is greatly hampered by US officials lobbying the crap out of the politicians sitting on top of that process to please, please, please leave those friendly, data thieving US companies alone, mainly because they would otherwise lose their intercept capability ability to bring great benign benefits to all of mankind.

Personally, I hope the EU very firmly locks the door on this. In the light of the Patriot Act and FISAA, any mention of the Safe Harbor scheme should be met with the derisive laughter it richly deserves. There is no possible way you can legally hold any data in cloud storage that cannot be penetrated by nice people in dark suits and shades visiting your US branch office.

Entertainingly, this appears to completely rule out any ability of a company with US links to provide cloud services in Europe. The trust required for that has gone up in smoke..

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Anonymous Coward

I'd like to see them pulling out for real and pull Windows and Windows Servers services and leave all the critical updates along with it.

That'd shut them up seeing in '09 a site I worked on targeting Chinese consumers had 96% of internet traffic from China using IE6.

What's MS got to lose when a majority of Chinese Windows installations are pirated.

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Well this is about Office 365 which can't be easily pirated.

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Anonymous Coward

The key question I ask myself is if anyone actually *wants* to. MS Office increasingly strikes me as a bet between Microsoft UI specialists for which is the worst UI they can manage to sell to the public.

And don't get me started on their butchering of Visio.

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Location, location, location...

I remember Microsoft refusing to disclose the location of other bits of their cloud in the past, though the Office 365 service they provide to the university I work for is definitely located in Amsterdam, i.e. within the EU, which should avoid most protectionism about "data protection".

Pulling the plug on China would seem fair play from one angle - they get awkward, just go home - but unfortunate for businesses caught in the middle of such a dispute. Of course, they should be used to that by now...

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Stop

Re: Location, location, location...

but they did confirm (and why it was treated as "news" was a mystery, it should have been bleeding obvious) that as a US company, irrespective of *where* their servers were, they were subject to the PATRIOT act, and therefore exposed to (a) a request for data from uncle Sam, or (b) being shutdown without warning.

Any company that uses any US connected cloud service is at the same risk.

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Anonymous Coward

And that is why...

...the corporate lawyers at the Den Haag-based multinational I work for -- who recently switched over to Outlook 365 -- are in hot water, and have been having weekly visits with the Dutch government to explain exactly why we should be allowed to continue to work on government contracts, despite storing related email on a US-controlled server in Amsterdam.

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Foreign multinationals would be affected?

Are you sure? In our office in Shanghai, the internet gets tunnelled through a VPN out of the country, completely bypassing the Great Firewall. I'd assume everyone else operates in the same way.

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Re: Foreign multinationals would be affected?

Some recent reports are talking about the Chinese government b0rking VPNs. Then again, maybe your company has a "license" to use a VPN?

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Re: Foreign multinationals would be affected?

You need a license for everything - license to have internet, license to have VPN, license to have servers connected to the internet... that last one is so hard to get, we use a local partner (which I suspect is entirely the point).

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Angel

Fix for Chinese Bureaucracy

"China is notorious for its bureaucratic patchwork of overlapping regulations,"

Tell me about it. Sat for 4 days waiting for something to clear customs. Everytime we tried to progress it, they would demand another form, or piece of info.

Eventually a call to the MD who was on holiday sorted it. The MD was friendly with a party official, to whom the MD would give regular "presents". Party official rings up customs, package released.

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Re: Fix for Chinese Bureaucracy

True, but having dealt with the local fiefdom the states is no better, at least not here. Campaign donations and outright brown bagging is pretty much the only economical way to get anything done at a county level (and that is when you ARE complying with laws \ statutes and just need permission to do something entirely legal). It's the same the world over, since 'we' elect politicians based on who can tell the most lies on TV which requires money, their arses are for sale to the highest bidder.

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Big Brother

What he really means

Is do you have the plugin to your service so the Chinese Gov may snoop on all your data and delete everything at will.

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Re: What he really means

Or, conversely, a good point from the Chinese perspective:

"You are charging money for your services, therefore you are "doing business" inside China. Are you properly licensed and registered for such activities?"

I hate to say it, but I'm on China's side on this one; just because Microsoft is a 'cloud' with parts outside of an individual state does not give them an automatic right to operate inside said state borders. Since Office 365 is a paid service Microsoft will be collecting fees from Chinese operations - it this subject to taxation? Doesn't the state have the right to regulate commerce within its own borders?

Just because Microsoft (and Google, for that matter) is American and 'cloudy' does not give them an automatic right to do whatever they wish, where ever they wish it.

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Megaphone

@Snake "I hate to say it, but I'm on China's side on this one". I have to say (and it does.......

........not cause me a moment's difficulty to do so) that I entirely agree with you. Given all the very obvious propaganda we have seen about all major Chinese companies being an arm of the Chinese state and therefor by definition suspect I have to say that any US company bound by the "Patriot Act" can scarcely complain if the Chinese shout back "Pot, Kettle and all that Round Eyes!".

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@snake

Agreed, but lets be honest, properly licensed and registered means letting us snoop and greasing our palms. The EU and US are just as bad at the first, a little too incompetent or bought to collect the taxes on it but thats another story.

If MS wants to do business in China it should play by their rules, it surprises me that they haven't. This just smells like someone found out someone else got a bigger present and is kicking up a stink until they get another one.

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How different is cloud from download?

I'm curious, Snake, as I sort of feel the same as you on this.

But, suppose I sell e-books and the customers are in China, and my servers are outside of China. Technically, every person (at least in the USA) who purchases or sells something is supposed to report it for taxation purposes. Generally, the seller collects the tax, escrows it, and forwards it to the various cognizant tax bodies. The buyer usually doesn't get involved after the sale. But, if the seller were discovered to be not collecting the taxes, and were not paying or forwarding the taxes, a government might pursue any identifiable, related consumer for any due taxes, say, in the event the seller/company went bust and had no assets.

So, theoretically, China could leave ms alone, but then squeeze the consumers of 365, the offices and any support companies linked to training and so on.

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Anonymous Coward

No civilized country or corporation should do business with China. Their government is corrupt and dictatorial. It needs to be isolated along with other rogue nation states.

After 60 years of communist rule, they would still roll tanks over protestors. They will not change as long as people do business with them.

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Anonymous Coward

The same counts for the US. They might not use actual tanks, but they do use armored against peaceful protests. Don't get me started on the mass surveillance and framing of innocent civilians. I do believe Americans should get their own house in order before trying to lecture China

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Shaken

Is this the equivalent of sending some boys in black suits round to say "nice business you've got here, be a shame if anything happened to it........"

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I'm sure this went over like a turd in a punchbowl with Microsoft

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Anonymous Coward

More charges coming your way..

Microsoft wants to move to a subscription model for the same reason it moved to a weekly patch date: to hide the numbers (yes, I know it comes in handy for administrators, but was IMHO not the real motivation).

The raw fact is that Microsoft Office is EXPENSIVE. Madly so, given the free alternatives out there - in some cases it was as expensive as the machine it was supposed to run on. This is Microsoft's real problem in times of economic problems: people realise just how much they are throwing out on a basic office package, and no amount of camouflage can disguise the raw CAPEX hit every time Redmond thinks we should sponsor their chair throwers anonymous club for another couple of years.

Hence the testing of subscriptions a la Google: it still costs lots, but it becomes a monthly expense in the operational budget which is easier to justify and easier to overlook mentally (basically, the principle of credit card debt: you pay massively more instead of a normal bank loan, but few people do the maths).

You should also be under no illusion that the price will stay at that level, btw, but they have to rope you in first.

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Re: More charges coming your way..

Wasn't Microsoft's Software Assurance licencing a form of subscription model. Keep paying the annual fees and always getting the latest version whenever you wanted.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: More charges coming your way..

Yes it was. And if it hadn't been for pesky accountants working out that for the long term commitment a business got effectively nothing that could have even gotten away with it. I think there are was even some study that deemed it more costly, mainly because MS had not been bringing out new versions in the meantime.

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China, "The Big One," on tap...but have the waters become luke warm?

I'd hate to be a large Western corporation with a large presence in China only to have operations the there suddenly disrupted due to dependance on Microsoft services when the Chinese Gov authorities block access some cold morning. Considering the multiple levels of gov and different legal business issues such a thing could even happen repeatedly.

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Happy

I'd like to see Microsoft Orifice 356 hacked and cloned....

Perhaps it could be called Dim Sum Office All Days, and be accessable and useable by any and all, at 1/3 the price, and with a minimum guaranteed surveillance level, like compared to Corporation USA's nazi surveillance schemes.

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Re: I'd like to see Microsoft Orifice 356 hacked and cloned....

Heh, plausible. Yeah, what Chinese Gov departments or businesses would want to have to keep their computers on permanent connections to USA servers 24/7 to do their office work. If I was Chinese I'd consider it very suspect. So Microsoft Orifice 356 hacked and cloned, yeah, I can see that happening. I bet those clone servers would more reliability than Microsofts' servers as well.

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Coat

Hmmm

"IDC analyst moved to allay 365 customer fears"

Gee. I'd have thought they'd be up to more customers by now... Does it need Windows 8 or something?

Thankyou... I'm here all night....

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