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Microsoft partners with Chinese state-owned defense conglomerate to promote, sell Windows 10 to government

Gregg Keizer | Dec. 21, 2015
Creates joint venture with China Electronics Technology Group Corp. to license, support Windows 10 in government agencies and some state-run enterprises

Likely because of its partner's relationship with China's government and the PLA -- along with the government's on-again, off-again attempts to twist the arms of Western technology firms to install "back doors" and let it examine source code -- Microsoft went preemptive to calm critics.

"Importantly, we will maintain ownership of the core Windows 10 technology while working, as we've always done, to allow customers and partners to build components that plug into our platform," wrote Yusuf Mehdi, a senior executive in the Windows and devices group, in a post to a company blog Thursday. "We'll continue to keep Windows 10 secure and sustain our strong privacy standards, while recognizing that public sector solutions may differ from technology offered to private sector enterprises and consumers around the world."

Microsoft has had a mixed experience in China, where its wares have historically been extensively pirated. The nadir of its relationship with the PLC's 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.

At the same time, China's state-controlled media made much of renewed efforts to create a home-grown operating system that would break the country's dependence on Western technologies by the likes of Microsoft and Apple.

The deal with CETA, and the C&M joint venture, would seem to signal that Microsoft has thwarted such alternate OS efforts.

This year, Microsoft has also announced multiple partnerships with Chinese companies to push Windows 10 in the massive market; the partnership with CETC is only the latest in a string of similar moves along those lines.

In September, Microsoft struck a deal with Baidu, China's largest search provider, to market and promote Windows 10. In return, Microsoft agreed that Baidu would replace the default Bing as the OS's default search engine.

For its part, a link on Baidu leads to an application called "Windows 10 Express," checks a PC for upgrade eligibility, runs a system scan to ensure the machine is able to handle the new OS, and then begins the upgrade download. The download count of the app stood at nearly 1.4 million as of Friday.

According to Baidu's own statistics -- based on the browsers and operating systems used to access its search site -- Windows 10 powered just 2.4% of the China's PCs in November. That's far short of the 9% user share of Windows 10 globally as measured by U.S.-based analytics vendor Net Applications for the same month.

Baidu's data also showed a continued slow decline of Windows XP, which Microsoft retired in 2014 and a nearly identical increase in Windows 7, hinting that those deserting the aged OS went to the 2009 standard.


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