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Microsoft Attempts To Woo Chinese Government With Customised Windows 10

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

No backdoors here. Redmond teams up with Chinese firm to customise Windows 10 for Chinese governmental use

Microsoft has finished customising a version of Windows 10 designed to be used by government departments in mainland China.

The development comes after Microsoft, along with many other western firms, reportedly found its sales in China squeezed by an ongoing cybersecurity crackdown by the authorities in Beijing.

For years now China has adopted an increasingly hostile attitude to Western technology, and has threatened on multiple occasions to ban the use of western tech for government use.Alibaba

Customised Windows

But according to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is one of the few Western firms to offer the Chinese government a customised version of its software.

That said, it is reported that Qualcomm and Intel have also reached similar deals with Chinese authorities.

Redmond apparently declined to disclose how Windows 10 was modified, but it comes amid Chinese concerns of possible backdoors in western tech that would allow foreign surveillance.

In 2014 for example, Microsoft angrily denied Chinese claims that Windows 8 had a backdoor for NSA surveillance after the Chinese government’s decision to ban the use of the Windows 8 operating system on governmental computers.

According to the WSJ, the Chinese version of Windows 10 was developed with state-owned company China Electronics Technology Group (CETG). The modified OS has already been tested at three pilot sites, including a China customs office, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The report also states that American companies often have to walk a fine line with any Chinese ventures, by providing enough information about their technology to reassure Chinese authorities without giving away core intellectual property to local firms who could become competitors.

Indeed, in 2015 the Chinese government demanded that if a foreign computer system was sold to a Chinese bank, the firm must surrender its source code.

The WSJ quoted a Microsoft spokesman who said that the Chinese version of Windows 10 still needs to be vetted by the Chinese government before it can be included on official procurement lists.

“We’re currently beginning the sales process,”, said Xiong Qunli, chairman of CETC, but he added that his company expects the government to greenlight the software.

Chinese Demands

Microsoft, Apple and other foreign tech firms have for a while now been excluded from government procurement lists because of “security concerns,” following the Edward Snowden revelations about NSA spying.

And in 2014 the Chinese government had reportedly pressured domestic banks to replace high-end IBM servers with similar equipment manufactured within the country, as part of a national security review.

Microsoft is also still under an antitrust investigation by China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce.

China has previously sought to develop China OS, an independent operating system intended to compete with the likes of Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows.

Quiz: Test your knowledge of Windows 10.