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Google and Microsoft get in Obama's ear

Tech rivals to advise on national strategy

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During President Barack Obama's first 100 days, much was made about his Lincoln-esque cabinet of all the talents bringing together expert individuals even from the opposition.

Now, Obama has recruited executives from rival tech titans to a government panel advising him and vice president Joe Biden on US scientific and technology policy.

Google chief executive and former Sun Microsystems chief technology officer Eric Schmidt and Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer Craig Mundie are joining Obama's 20-member President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).

They join representatives from fields of space, science, engineering, and medicine and also IT. Their fellow technology-sector representative is the retired general manager of technology partnerships for Honeywell, Maxine Savitz.

Obama said in a statement the council will bring a diversity of experience and views when advising on national strategies that "nurture and sustain a culture of scientific innovation."

The talking shop will, inevitably, see counter philosophies expressed and ideas pressed on the president and vice president. Microsoft's well versed in the politics of advising and lobbying US government in Washington along with governments and related international bodies. Typically, the philosophy comes down to a continued belief in Windows and the PC and related works such as its OOXML counter to ODF in documents.

Google is a relatively latecomer, but has adapted. Google and Web 2.0 are playing to a friendly audience. The Obama election campaign embraced open-source technology on its web site and used social networking to encourage participation and for communication.

Since then, Google's director of public policy and government affairs Andrew McLaughlin joined the Obama Transition Team, charged with prepping the new administration for inauguration day. Obama has also named former Washington DC chief technology officer Vivek Kundra as the federal government's chief information officer. Among his actions there, Kundra had adopted Google Apps for collaboration and penned one of the country's first officially-approved open source textbook, the Physics Flexbook.

Mundie will need to do more than simply continue to advocate the manifest destiny of the PC and Windows to swim in these Washington waters. That said, Microsoft knows the reality of government IT, and that reality's helped curtail the early enthusiasm for, and put limits on the adoption of, "Government 2.0".®

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