Recently, Microsoft released Windows 10, which aims to upload and store everything on your computer to its servers in some remote location (this blog). I thought that location was in the US, but I just learnt they also have data centres in Ireland, under EU legal jurisdiction. The EU has strict privacy laws regarding privacy rights.
A story on the BBC reveals that the US government is demanding access to emails on MS’s Irish data servers (BBC). What is surprising is that Microsoft is battling against this. They say, “If the US government is permitted to serve warrants on tech companies in the United States and obtain people’s emails in any country, it will open the floodgate for other countries to serve warrants on tech companies for the private communications of American citizens that are stored in the United States in a data centre owned by a foreign company,” says MS’s lawyer Brad Smith according to the BBC. Another motivation for wanting to protect their customer’s privacies might also be to do with market share. MS has lost a lot of ground, and their products are no longer the default or go to device for consumers. Many of the younger generations are growing up with smartphones in their hands instead of a Windows OS in front of them, at least in Japan (Murray and Blyth, 2011). They need to maintain some market share, and losing such a case would turn even more people away from their OS, tablets, and any MS smartphone they might try to make in the future. MS tablets are really really good.
In my personal opinion, the MS Surface is much, much better than the Apple iPad. The iPad has a stripped down OS that is more oriented for entertainment. Whereas the MS Surface tablet has a full Windows operating system on it (Wikipedia), so you can run specialised desktop programs like SPSS, Nvivo, Office (including Word and PowerPoint), the full Adobe Photoshop, and more. The MS Surface sales have been quite lacklustre (Wikipedia/Surface#Sales), perhaps it was exactly the right product, but released whilst everyone is still hypnotised by another. Regardless of which is better, the fact is, MS is now in a weaker position, and public trust in them is low.
Since it was revealed that the US government are creepily collecting all our emails, and data from FaceBook and other services, it is using its technological hegemonic position, which could damage US companies reputations. Trust in not just MS is waning, but all US tech companies (NY Times, Time). MS needs to win this fight for the credibility of Silicon Valley. A loss would open the way for rival and neutral country-based tech companies to gain trust and an upper hand. I know I’d rather my emails be stored in a German or Swiss data centre.