Microsoft Looks To State For New China Skype Partner

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I really would like to compliment Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) from time to time for its China strategy, since I personally have no objections with the world’s largest software maker in general. But it’s often difficult to find anything positive to say about Microsoft’s strange decisions in China, and that’s certainly the case with the latest news about its choice of new local business partner for its Skype instant messaging service. Microsoft made headlines earlier this month when it dissolved a longstanding China tie-up for Skype without naming a new partner for the service; now it has formally chosen new partners in 2 stodgy state-run enterprises, Guangming Daily and Founder Group.

Despite its global popularity, Skype has been a non-player for years in China as it operated under an ineffective partnership with the Hong Kong-controlled Tom Group (OTCPK:TOCOF). It announced 2 weeks ago that it was formally ending that partnership, though at the time it didn’t name any new partner. Now we’re learning that the new partner is a company called Guangming Founder, which itself is a joint venture between the ideological newspaper the Guangming Daily and Founder Group, a state-run conglomerate connected with the prestigious Peking University. (English article; Chinese article) The new alliance will operate a Chinese version of Skype at skype.gmw.cn.

There’s not much more detail beyond that, except that users of Skype’s previous China service will be migrated to new software under the Guangming Founder partnership. My first reaction is that this new alliance looks quite bizarre. Foreign multinationals usually choose private-sector local partners for their Internet ventures in China, but in this case Microsoft has clearly chosen a company with very strong state-run credentials.

Guangming Daily is one of China’s oldest newspapers, and is mostly known for its ideological focus rather than its business acumen. Founder also has strong

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