Microsoft completes Windows 10 customized for China's government

Unclear what changes Microsoft made, but company touts special version as 'secure and controllable'

Microsoft has wrapped up work on a version of Windows 10 for China's government and state-owned businesses, and is ready to begin selling the software, a state-run newspaper said today.

"We have worked extensively to make it secure and controllable. We are now ready to serve the market," Alain Crozier, the CEO of Microsoft's Greater China operation, told China Daily.

The modified Windows 10 was the result of a December 2015 deal with China Electronics Technology Group (CETC), a state-backed defense contractor. Microsoft and CETC formed a joint venture, C&M Information Technologies, to license the operating system to government agencies and some state-owned enterprises, including ones that control energy, telecommunications and transportation.

CETC owns 51% of C&M Information, while Microsoft retains the remaining 49%.

Neither Microsoft nor the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) has described what changes were made to Windows 10 to gain approval. In September 2015, however, Microsoft asserted that, "We will maintain ownership of the core Windows 10 technology," to head off critics of China's irregular arm-twisting of Western vendors to install "back doors" and let it examine source code.

The China Daily news story said that the customized Windows 10 was equipped with "tailor-made security features," but did not elaborate.

Also on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reported that the software still needed to go through government review before it can be added to procurement lists.

Microsoft has had a mixed experience in China, where its wares have historically been pirated. The nadir of its relationship with the PRC government was in 2014, when the Central Government Procurement Center banned Windows 8 from agencies' PCs. That year, antitrust regulators also threatened action, then raided several Microsoft in-country offices to seize computers, emails and financial data.

Windows 10 has a small footprint in China. According to measurements from Baidu, the country's largest search provider, Windows 10 powered just 9% of all personal computers in February. In comparison, U.S. metrics vendor Net Applications pegged Windows 10 global user share at 25% last month.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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