China Central Television, CCTV, has questioned Microsoft’s Windows 8, citing critical security concerns within the software company’s operating system. The state-run news station cited information it claimed was discovered by experts, which say the operating system had vulnerabilities which potentially could compromise a user’s personal data such as phone numbers and banking information. It also accused Microsoft of colluding with the U.S. government to engage in cyber spying.
As a result of China’s controversy over the software giant’s latest operating system, the Xinhua news agency reported the country has banned the use of Windows 8 on all central state agency computers. The news agency did not specify a reason for the ban, other than the country did not want to put their systems at risk in the event the software maker discontinued technical support, as it did recently for the Windows XP operating system. Microsoft previously gave its customers notice that they were scheduling the termination of technical support for the aging XP operating system, which has been in service for approximately 13 years.
According to Microsoft sources from its Redmond, WA headquarters, the company has been working with the Chinese Central Government Procurement Center and other agencies to make sure their specific requirements are met. The company said it was caught off-guard by the news that came from CCTV. In the meantime, Windows 7 is still being used by that country’s government agencies and support is still being provided.
The move by China to nix Windows 8 is a setback for the company, which had hoped the new operating system would help overcome critical revenue losses as a result of widespread piracy of its software products. In 2011, former CEO Steve Ballmer is reported to have informed the company that, even though Microsoft’s sales numbers in China were similar to those in the U.S., revenue earned from sales there was significantly less than what was earned in the much smaller nation of the Netherlands, in large part due to the piracy problem.
Adding to the uncertainty of the ban is that it comes at a time when relations between the U.S. and China have been acrimonious after accusations of hacking and cyber spying were exchanged between the two countries. That squabble occurred, however, after the Windows 8 rebuke so the prohibition seems to be unrelated. The ban of the Windows 8 operating system relates only to new government computers and has no bearing on personally owned computers.
According to Ni Guangnan, an official at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, speculation is that the Chinese may be considering its own proprietary operating system based on Linux. This is thought to be in response to the purported security concerns in the new Windows OS.
In recent years, the Chinese have continued to be an important customer for Microsoft, and the country has made strides to purchase licensed software in their government offices over counterfeit or bootleg versions. Still, private sector usage of the latest Windows version has less than a 2 percent market share, according to CNZZ.com, an Internet analytics resource. Prior to the release of Windows 8, China had also been critical of the company’s pricing of their operating system software.
By Mark Politi