The Chinese government this week announced that it will ban the use of Microsoft's Windows 8 OS on its computers. But it's currently unclear why it has done so, with different sources providing different explanations.
According to a posting by the China government all newly purchased governmental PCs must have operating systems other than Windows 8. The ban does not impact personal computer sales to individuals or businesses in the country, but the government is the biggest buyer of PCs in China.
Reasons abound for the ban.
China said vaguely in the posting that the ban is due to a move to "energy saving" products. But a China-based news agency says the ban was "to ensure computer security" in the wake of the expiration of support for Windows XP.
Yan Xiaohong, the National Copyright Administration deputy director, gave The Economic Times a third reason. At about $142 US per copy, "Windows 8 is fairly expensive and will increase government procurement costs." He said the government was negotiating with Microsoft on the price.
Although each of these reasons is interesting, if confusing, the XP issue may cut to the heart of the matter. Windows XP currently makes up 50 percent of the desktop PC market in China, according to the market researchers at Canalys. But much of that is due to pirated copies of the widely-distributed OS. And Microsoft's increasingly stringent anti-piracy measures in more recent Windows versions is due, in part, to that piracy.
In April, Microsoft of course ended support for the aging XP, a move that many deemed overdue. But with hundreds of millions of users worldwide still using the system, the end of support also comes with the risk that these systems will become more vulnerable over time to electronic attack. In China, hundreds of security firms have released XP-specific protection packages to help combat this issue.
Microsoft has yet to comment on the ban, but given the firm's recent licensing flexibility—many versions of Windows are now available for free, a dramatic change from just a few months ago—I expect the firm to reach an agreement with China quickly.