Earlier in the week, President-elect Donald Trump hosted a meeting in New York with tech industry leaders. Among them were both Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Apple CEO Tim Cook. While the meeting has been described as “productive” by the Trump team, it has also drawn criticism. Microsoft and other tech giants have also said that they will not help to create the so-called Muslim registry.
On the campaign trail, Trump left a wake of controversy behind him. Aside from his Russia/Iran posturing and overt sexism, the businessman-turned-politician also caused racial tension by proposing to block all Muslims from entering the United States.
In a week where Microsoft updated its position on human rights, a meeting including Nadella and Trump was bound to stir up questions. One of them was would the company discuss Trump's controversial remarks on minorities within the US?
The company says there was no mention of a Muslim registry, but did reiterate its stance on such a notion:
“We wouldn't do any work to build a registry of Muslim Americans. We've been clear about our values. We oppose discrimination and we wouldn't do any work to build a registry of Muslim Americans.”
It is worth noting that tech companies are truly multinational and have employees of numerous ethnicities. To ensure the registry is never created, employees of Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and others have signed a pledge. Those employees says their representative companies will never participate in the Muslim registry.
There are still questions about whether Wednesday's proved to be worthwhile, and it has drawn criticism. As well as the president-elect, sitting in on the meeting were Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Google's Larry Page, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Tesla's CEO Elon Musk.
The fact that Bezos decided to turn up was a surprise considering he has been a vocal critic of Trump. Actually, the truth is all of these CEOs likely oppose Trump on principal. However, a major corporation making a political stance before a president has even created policy is unthinkable. The attendees are economically and even morally obligated to play the waiting game with Trump.
One tech leader who did not attend was Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce. He has slammed Trump's campaign in the past and is also a noted advocate for equality.
Among the most interesting aspects of this meeting was the fact Donald Trump's four children were in attendance. Microsoft's chief legal officer Brad Smith sat next to Trump's children, who the President-elect has said will take over his business while he is in office.
Of course, the fact they were in the meeting is an incredible double standard. As the soon to be heads of Trump's businesses, one could argue their presence granted them insider information on the tech industry. In other words, there was no need for them to be there during a meeting that was political-based. It was arguably a display of kleptocracy that we will see more of in the coming years.
One of the notable asides during this week has been Trump's position next to the tech CEOs. The President-elect is known to be boastful of his success in business. However, many of those at the meeting were both more successful and richer than Trump. It would be interesting to have been a fly on the wall at the meeting. Trump's arrogance is known to come from his feeling of superiority over most people due to his wealth. Is it possible a more humble Donald Trump was on display in the presence of more successful executives?
Microsoft vs. Trump
As mentioned, tech companies are obliged to at least hear Trump out, so to speak. Microsoft must see how Trump treats the economy during his first months in the White House before openly condemning him.
It is hard to believe that Satya Nadella is not mortified by Trump's election, like many people are. But until he (Trump) does something to go to war over, he must be given space.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates also met with Donald Trump recently and actually spoke positively about the soon-to-be President. He says Trump has spoken well about innovation in the tech industry. Indeed, he even compared Donald Trump to John F. Kennedy. A bold comparison maybe, but Gates was referencing a single point.
He says, in the same way JFK drove innovation in space by simply backing space travel, Trump could do the same for tech. Sure, many of Trump's critics would doubt this, but while Trump leaves a trail of controversy on many subjects, his plans for the economy and tech are not as well explored.