If you're a business user faced with Microsoft ending support for Windows XP, it's tough luck or upgrade. But if you're the Chinese government, there are other options -- like banning Windows 8 from all the computers you buy.
On Tuesday, the Chinese government announced that the Windows 8 operating system would be forbidden from new energy-saving government computers. Some observers have taken the statement to mean all new computers purchased by the government. The reason given is because of security concerns, somehow related to the XP situation.
The Central Government Procurement Center said all computers bought by central state agencies -- desktops, tablets, and laptops -- must use something other than Windows 8. Computers used by companies and individuals outside the government are not affected, and a timeline has not been indicated.
50 Percent to 70 Percent Share
The governmental news agency, Xinhua, issued a statement that the government "moved to avoid the awkwardness of being confronted with a similar situation again in future if it continues to purchase computers with [a] foreign OS."
XP is big in China, with a market share estimated at 50 percent to 70 percent, and most governmental computers use the venerable OS. On April 8, after many warnings, Microsoft discontinued all support and security updates for XP. Chinese security companies were expected to continue their support, but apparently that was not enough. Microsoft has negotiated deals for support for some large customers, including the governments of UK and the Netherlands.
It's not completely clear why the Chinese government decided to ban Windows 8 if it feared security issues with XP, since infected files could infect computers with other OSes as well. The larger issue appears to be having control through a Chinese or a governmental-created OS.
The government is reportedly planning to create its own OS based on Linux. Several Linux-based OSes already exist in that country, such as KylinOS and StartOS, but their use is not widespread. As development of a solid OS could take awhile, it's also not clear what the government's plans are in the meantime. One Chinese security expert has told news media that progress on a Linux-based, homegrown OS was "disappointing."
The decision marks yet another digital loggerhead between China and the U.S. Earlier this week, the U.S. Justice Department indicted five Chinese military officials on charges of hacking into the computers of major U.S. companies, in order to gain competitive advantage for Chinese companies. Additionally, Microsoft and other intellectual property-based companies have long sought the Chinese government's assistance in curbing the rampant software and hardware piracy in that country.
It's possible that, if China cannot develop a solid Linux OS in a short period of time, the Chinese government could opt for Windows 7, although that would still leave it vulnerable to Microsoft's decisions. There's also Google's Chromebook OS, some computer version of Android, Mac, or an existing Linux OS like Ubuntu, but those seem unlikely.