China Trains Antitrust Crosshairs On Microsoft

China state media on Wednesday reported that the Chinese government's State Intellectual Property Office has launched antitrust investigations against Microsoft and several other software vendors for allegedly charging more for their products in China than in other countries.

According to AFP, a source quoted by China's Shanghai Securities News said a package consisting of one copy of Windows and one copy of Office can cost more than $1,000. The Chinese government passed a law last year specifically designed to address the high cost of genuine software, and it's possible that lawsuits against Microsoft and other vendors could follow after the law takes effect August 1, the source said.

In an email, a Microsoft spokesperson said the vendor isn't aware of any "competition law" investigation. "We fully support China's efforts to establish an environment conducive to promoting fair competition and we believe we are in compliance with Chinese law," the spokesperson said.

The investigation is ironic in light of China's less than stellar track record in fighting software piracy. In a January 2008 study sponsored by the Business Software Alliance, IDC estimated that more than 80 percent of PC software in China is pirated.

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The EU in February hit Microsoft with a record penalty of $1.35 billion for overcharging software developers for access to Windows protocols in defiance of European Commission anti-trust rulings, bringing its total tally of EU fines to about $2.5 billion.