London, Aug. 19: A tiny shading error in a computer programme involved Microsoft in a multi-million pound business fiasco, the head of the firm’s geopolitical strategy unit said yesterday. Tom Edwards made the admission to delegates at the International Geographical Union congress in Glasgow.
He explained how erroneously colouring eight out of 800,000 pixels dark rather than light green to represent Kashmir’s disputed territory as non-Indian in Windows 95’s time zone feature had led to the product being banned in India. He said 200,000 copies had to be recalled and the firm’s reputation in the region took a serious battering.
The Kashmir example was just one of a series of embarrassing mistakes Edwards owned up to on behalf of programmers employed by the company founded by Bill Gates.
Others offended by the corporation in similar computer software diplomatic faux pas in recent years include the Saudi Arabian and Turkish governments, the Kurds and Chinese, women in several Latin American countries and computer game-playing Muslims.
Edwards made his confession as part of a presentation on why multi-national corporations must be more geographically literate to win the trust of their customers. Such geopolitical errors may at first appear to be a small matter of the odd unintentional misuse of a phrase or the inadvertent mistakenly drawn line, but results can be catastrophic.
Saudi Arabia’s government complained over the accidental use of Koranic chanting as the soundtrack for a scene of Kakuto Chojin, a fighting game released in November 2002. Edward recommended 75,000 copies of the game be destroyed after a Muslim linguist he consulted “went ballistic”. Although managers removed the chant from future versions, they decided to sell original copies. Three months later a fax arrived from Saudi authorities stating they had banned the game and demanding an apology.
The original Encarta 95 Encyclopedia had a map of Turkey with the label Kurdistan, an area the Kurdish people claim as their own. The Turks were deeply offended and Microsoft distributors in the country were arrested and questioned.
One success claimed by Edward’s unit was to prevent the release of Office XP software with a moon and stars astrology icon that resembled the sacred Islamic hila symbol.