Microsoft's 2008 10-K and the EU: Listening to the Dog That Didn't Bark


There has been all kinds of misdirection and misinformation floating around the blogosphere concerning four- to eight-year old sentences in the Risk Factors section of Microsoft's 2008 10-K.


Lora Bentley tried to set part of the record straight here on IT Business Edge, but it is a losing battle when Microsoft competitors and the trade press think there is a marketing or readership advantage in manipulating the document's wording.


But the real news to me is the sentence that was apparently deleted from this year's filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Since at least 2002, Microsoft had said it considered the following a risk:

"...recent efforts by proponents of the open source software to convince governments worldwide to mandate the use of open source software in their purchase and deployment of software products."

(Note: I say "apparently" because the sentence is not in the section where it appeared between 2002 and 2007; it could have been moved somewhere else in the 79-page document. Also, the above is the 2003 wording; the wording changed slightly year-to-year from 2002 to 2007.)


My comment is not about open source (that's Lora's area) but government-controlled markets and what they mean for IT managers and staff. Microsoft apparently wants to bury the hatchet with Neelie Kroes and European Union (EU) Competition Commission, but that would be a mistake. The EU's attempt to control its citizens' information technology choices has been going on since the birth of the IT market. See the article on page 107 (actually you don't want to wade through it but I post it for research completeness). Microsoft's removal of a sentence from its 10-K is not going to change the EU's 50-year effort to manipulate freedom.


At least I was happy to see Microsoft warn in its 10-K:

"We may have to choose (to withdraw) products from certain geographies ..."

As much as I have hoped for the last three years that Microsoft would get out of its money-losing operations in the EU, I must point out that Microsoft has also been making this threat in its 10-K for years.