Microsoft: We're Still Working With Chinese Government Despite Windows 8 Ban


The Chinese government earlier this week banned the use of Windows 8 on all new PCs, in what appears to be a response to Microsoft cutting off support for Windows XP back in April.

However, Microsoft insists that it's working with Chinese government agencies to make sure Windows 8 meets their needs, as it has for many other government agencies in other countries.

China's Central Government Procurement Center, in a statement quoted by Xinhua News Agency Wednesday, has decreed that all desktops, laptops and tablet PCs purchased by central government agencies must be installed with operating systems other than Windows 8.

[Related: Microsoft Reveals Windows 8.1 Update Details, Will Make Windows Free For Some Tablets]

According to Xinhua, most Chinese government agencies are still using Windows XP PCs, and Microsoft's 13-year-old OS still has a 70 percent market share in the country. And the Chinese government is afraid Microsoft will cut off support for Windows 8 as it has done with XP, leaving it vulnerable to security breaches.

But security hasn't been a big concern for Windows 8 users. In fact, while XP has long been a target for hackers, the stronger security Microsoft began adding with the release of Windows Vista in 2006, and in subsequent versions, has led to a dramatic decrease in Windows vulnerabilities.

In an emailed statement, a Microsoft spokesperson said the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant has been "working proactively" with the Chinese Central Government Procurement Center and other government agencies to ensure that its products and services meet their procurement requirements.

"We are confident that Windows 8 meets all of these requirements, and we’ve seen a large number of customers around the world, including governments, embrace Windows 8 as a modern, secure operating system," the spokesperson said.

The U.S. and Chinese governments have been squabbling over computer espionage for years, and things intensified earlier this week when the U.S. Department of Justice indicted five Chinese People's Liberation Army officers for allegedly hacking into computer networks of U.S. companies and stealing trade secrets.  

China, meanwhile, has cut spending on U.S. enterprise hardware and software significantly in the wake of the NSA spying scandal and the documents made public by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

One Microsoft partner, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told CRN he thinks the Chinese government's Windows 8 ban is more about politics than it is about endpoint security.

The Chinese government has been working on its own Linux-based alternative to Windows for the past few years, but so far those efforts haven't progressed as planned, according to Xinhua.

Another Microsoft partner, who also didn't want to be named, said it's easy for the Chinese government to ban an operating system that isn't setting the world on fire in terms of popularity.

"You don’t see China dropping Windows Server or Office any other really useful Microsoft product," said the partner.

PUBLISHED MAY 22, 2014