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MS Encarta ‘facts’ vary, depending on edition

So why is it only this division that doesn't want to piss anybody off?

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The Wall Street Journal's researchers have clearly been busy. Careful comparisons of the various international editions of Microsoft Encarta, today's edition reports, show that in numerous cases the 'facts' are different in different editions. That in itself is quite Microsoftish. More so is the quote from Dominique Lempereur, responsible for Microsoft's international education-related business, who says that "you basically have to rewrite all of the content" for international editions. Even more so is the one from MS European marketing director Richard Lindh, who jokes that the French and British English editions give a very different impression of who won the battle of Waterloo. The WSJ gives a couple of examples, noting that in Italy Antonio Meucci, rather than the usual suspect, invented the telephone. The US edition has Edison and Brit Joseph Swan inventing the light bulb simultaneously, whereas the UK edition has Swan first. Microsoft also does a special Indian edition that "reflects the local geographical understanding" of Kashmir (i.e. it's all in India, rather than disputed territory between India and Pakistan, and has avoided offending the Turks by removing the word Kurdistan from one of its maps. The WSJ pulls its punches somewhat on this one, simply presenting the rival approach followed by Encyclopaedia Britannica and then moving on. The Britannica follows a pretty rigorous academic policy, checking out contradictions, establishing a standard viewpoint and presenting the alternatives. This, the truth as best it can be called, is surely what you're going to go to an encyclopaedia for, and an encyclopaedia that follows this policy is going to be what it's meant to be - a voice of authority. Microsoft, on the contrary, would appear to be telling people what it figures they want to hear in order to build sales, and to avoid offending anyone. Dubious is too mild a word for this approach. ®

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