Ballmer makes a long-term overseas investment for Microsoft

You have to hand it to Microsoft. The software giant has taken its share of drubbings for software missteps and strong-armed business tactics. But when it comes to opening up international markets, Microsoft has been very successful, often because the company will do whatever it takes to get on the right side of local officials.

An appearance in Moscow last week by CEO Steve Ballmer demonstrated that making key local partnerships, announcing major investments, and lavishing praise can open doors and set the stage for future expansion abroad.

According to Microsoft, Ballmer announced Russian investments totaling 10 billion Rubles (about US$300 million). The investments included:

* Free Microsoft software licenses for 1,000 Russian start-ups through 2011

* Expanding the number of local computer training centers around Russia, and teaching 300,000 locals "e-skills," which Microsoft says will help them get jobs and become better citizens of the "information society."

* Partnering with local universities to provide government-certified IT training