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Good news for Microsoft: China wants to dump Windows

Robert X. Cringely | Sept. 1, 2014
If China makes good on its threat to break up with Windows, Microsoft could lose the battle -- yet win the war.

My niece has been staring at the TV with glazed eyes, stunned by the news that Hello Kitty is — wait for it -—not a cat. No, really. According to the schizophrenics who invented Hello Kitty, she's an anime character (that is, a child) who loves cats and has one of her own. Why does she look like a cat? Because that's how the anime 'verse rolls, and apparently, her anime parents ignored their amnio results. That's not the only news from the Far East, although in my opinion, it's by far the most mind-blowing.

The other bit of news from Asia comes out of China and is a rehash of the threat/promise/drunken joke made every few years that the Chinese government is releasing its own operating system and plans to ban Windows from every nook and cranny because Microsoft is too powerful, monopolistic, and oppressive. Sure, why not? The Chinese government is also worried that Windows has been made deliberately vulnerable to NSA spying, which is evil and wrong, and China's higher-ups would never think about doing in their own country.

I agree. It is evil. It is wrong. Also, the Chinese would never think about doing it in their country. They simply do it.

News sources report that the new OS will be based on Ubuntu or at least a flavor of open source Linux, so I wonder how they figure it's not full of holes. Then again, who cares?

Stop me if you think you've heard this one before
Looking back, China has been making this promise every few years since the late '90s and even released a few lackluster examples, most recently COS, a mobile OS that flopped out this past January. The Chinese government claims it's not based on open source code, but somehow it's compatible with most of the Android app library and looks suspiciously like a skin of HTC's Sense environment. One Western developer said the name should stand for "Copy Other System." Further reports show that COS is doing really well in China — if your definition of "well" is adoption at gunpoint.

But look at it from China's perspective — there's little downside. The development costs are probably a pittance they've forced down the throat of an in-country programming house. It doesn't matter what the OS is based on as long as it meets the following criteria:

  • It's not Microsoft.
  • It's not open to international scrutiny.
  • It's chock-full of digital surveillance vulnerabilities, aka "features," as they're known in the Forbidden City (and, to be fair, in Washington, DC).

The few Chinese citizens who actually use this platform and don't buy it to stay in their government's good graces while operating another OS when no one's watching, those schmucks are extracompromised. That's gravy. The real upside is that the OS will pressure Microsoft and other software makers to grant the Chinese price concessions — or else!


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