The Chinese government has announced that its agencies will be forbidden from upgrading their ageing and end-of-life Windows XP systems to Windows 8.1, banning Microsoft's latest operating system in the name of security.
According to local news agency Xinhua
, the now EOL Windows XP operating system boasts a 70 per cent market share in China and is installed on the majority of governmental systems. With no more support from Microsoft, the Chinese government is looking to upgrade - but it won't be jumping to Microsoft's latest and greatest, with Windows 8.1 having been added to an official ban list over Microsoft's - natural - plans to withdraw support in the coming years as part of its regular upgrade cycle.
Instead, the Chinese government is claimed to be pressuring its agencies to concentrate on home-brew operating systems based on the Linux kernel and GNU utilities, which will be given a rolling-upgrade cycle that ensures they never need a formal 'upgrade' nor are ever left end-of-life. The use of locally-developed software based on popular open-source projects will also help boost China's national security in the wake of revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden that the US routinely weakens cryptographic utilities and plants back doors in commercial products.
Microsoft has indicated that the exclusion of Windows 8 and its successor Windows 8.1 from official governmental bidding came as a surprise, but that it will continue to work with the Chinese government to find a solution. 'We have been and will continue to provide Windows 7 to government customers,
' the company claimed in a statement to press. 'At the same time we are working on the Windows 8 evaluation with relevant government agencies.
With a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, China is a massive market. The country does, however, suffer from an incredibly high rate of piracy: estimates from the anti-piracy Business Software Alliance (BSA) suggested a high of 92 per cent in 2003, dropping to a still-high 77 per cent in 2012 - meaning nearly four out of every five software packages used in the country were unlicensed.