There’s been quite a bit of coverage over the past few days about a recent announcement from the Chinese government that it will “ban the use of Microsoft’s Windows 8 on its computers” (this quotation comes from Paul Thurrott’s May 20 story from WindowsITPro entitled “China Bans Windows 8 on Governmental Computers“). Reasons for this ban vary according to the source from whence such information originates, and include the following options or alternatives:
1. The government’s own posting on the subject indicates that the ban is in response to a planned move to “energy saving” products, which turns out to mean a home-grown combination of the Linux OS, open source software, and various security enhancements
2. Xinhua, one of the premier Chinese news agencies, reports that the ban is intended “to enhance computer security” in the wake of the end of life (and free support) for Windows XP, of which hundreds of millions of (mostly pirated) copies are in use in China, including in all aspects of government operations
3. On April 22, The Economic Times quoted the deputy director of China’s National Copyright Administration, Yan Xiohong, as saying “Windows 8 is fairly expensive and will increase government procurement costs” but that Chinese authorities are negotiating with MS on this matter. The paper reports further that Windows 8 sells for approximately $142 per license in China at this time.
When combining these various takes on the situation, I find myself wondering if the Chinese government might not be conducting high-stakes price negotiations with Microsoft through the press, while at the same time expressing its pique about the security threats to existing XP installations posed by lack of ongoing support and security updates for that venerable and widely used operating system. On the other hand, it’s also easy to see worries about security backdoors in US information technology products (including software) raised by the ongoing reports from Mr. Snowden. It’s hard to tell if this is a genuine matter of decided policy, or a gambit to ensure a better deal for the hundreds of millions of licenses that the Chinese government might have to buy in the future, if not all of these things at work simultaneously. Interestingly, current reports also indicate that the Chinese government is continuing to buy Windows 7 licenses, at least for the time being. It should be very interesting to see how this all plays out.