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China escalates rhetoric in campaign to ban Windows 8

PCs are too expensive, foreign OS makers can steal data, government mouthpiece charges

June 4, 2014 03:33 PM ET

Computerworld - China's state-run television today took new shots at Microsoft's Windows 8, using a two-and-a-half-minute segment on a national show to blast the operating system as a data thief.

The piece on China Central Television (CCT) was a follow-up to an announcement in May by the Central Government Procurement Center, which mandated that all "desktops, laptops and tablet PCs purchased by central state organizations must be installed with OS other than Windows 8."

At the time, the Xinhua New Agency, an official mouthpiece of the People's Republic of China government, claimed that the ban of Windows 8 was designed to avoid a repeat of XP's widespread use and its exit from support.

CCT pivoted on the official reasoning today. According to the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) the segment quoted experts who argued that operating systems' makers can steal data from computers, including phone numbers and financial information.

"Whoever controls the operating system can control all the data on the computers using it," the CCT broadcast said, according to the newspaper's translation.

"It has little to do about security or privacy," countered Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "Windows 8 is astronomically more secure than Windows XP. and while it's true that Windows 8, like any operating system, saves data like contacts in an address book and favorites in the browser, it's on a purely optional basis."

Nor is there any evidence that Microsoft, or any OS maker, mines that data.

Much of the CCT segment was devoted to discussion of Windows 8's high price, said Jay Chou, an analyst with IDC who speaks Mandarin. Chou summarized the broadcast for Computerworld, which is owned by IDG, the same privately-held company that operates the IDC research arm.

"Before the formal May 16 announcement came out, many in government IT purchasing were already notified to stop buying and using Windows 8," Chou said, paraphrasing the segment. "The reason given by some in these public sector agencies is the relative higher cost of buying a Windows 8 PC. The report also says there is continued hope and encouragement to use a Chinese-produced OS."

"This kind of thing goes back and forth, stews for a while, and hits an apogee where people do some chest-beating," Moorhead said. "But then people get on with business."

The Chinese government and Microsoft have crossed swords before. In 2000, Red Flag Linux, which was funded in part by the government's Ministry of Information, was mandated as the replacement for Windows 2000 on all government PCs. Tensions between China's government and Microsoft over piracy and pricing were at the root of that order.

CCT broadcast
China's state-run television took to the air Monday to blast Windows 8 as a security threat because it had been created by a foreign technology company. (Image: China Central Television.)


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