China has banned the use of Windows 8 on government computers, Reuters reported today. Oddly enough, the move came as a part of a notice on energy-saving products, though it seems the decision was unrelated to those measures.
Xinhua, China’s official news agency, claimed that the decision was made to ensure computer security after Microsoft ended support for Windows XP last month.
Microsoft’s decision to end support for XP made the 13-year-old operating system less secure, while Windows 8 is being kept up to date with security patches. These actions would imply that the Chinese government either must not care about the fact that XP has unpatched security flaws, or it thinks that it can get by with its own security measures.
It’s also possible that this decision was made to retaliate against the U.S. The Justice Department announced yesterday that a grand jury had indicted four members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army it claimed were responsible for hacking U.S. companies and stealing corporate secrets.
The ban is bad news for Microsoft, which has faced challenges getting its software sold in China.
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer remarked during a talk in Beijing in 2011 that Chinese and American computer sales were roughly equal at the time, but Microsoft’s revenue from China was roughly 5 percent of what it brought in from the U.S. If the massive Chinese market stays on Windows XP, that could be a significant blow to Microsoft’s revenue.
In addition, the Chinese government is working on developing its own Linux-based OS, though progress has been slow going. The new OS could be the chinese government’s choice to replace XP, though it’s unclear when that offering will be ready.