The Chinese government is a serial offender when it comes to banning things, with the country recently adding a major product to its ever growing list of prohibited items: Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system.
To be clear, China is only banning Windows 8 installations on government computers; citizens are still free to use Windows 8 on their personal computers if they choose. However, the ban is still a significant blow for Microsoft, which has struggled to gain a sales footprint in the country due to piracy.
The ban was officially issued through a Central Government Procurement Center notice on using energy-saving products, although it’s unclear exactly how banning Windows 8 saves energy. An official Chinese news agency,Xinhuanet, reports that the ban was to “ensure computer security after the shutdown of Windows XP”, but again officials didn’t state exactly how the ban ensures the security of PCs.
Around 70% of government computers in China are running Windows XP, which Microsoft recently ended support for 13 years after it was released. Windows XP is inherently less secure than newer versions of Windows, made even less secure now that support has ended, so by prohibiting new government PCs from running Windows 8, it’s unlikely Chinese systems will become safer.
The proposed alternative to Windows 8 on government machines is a variety of Chinese-made Linux-based operating systems, such as KylinOS and StartOS. As Xinhuanet notes, these OSes aren’t particularly popular and are likely less versatile than Windows, presenting an interesting situation for government officials going forward.