back to article China in MONOPOLY PROBE into Microsoft: Do not pass GO, do not collect 200 yuan

Chinese regulators have confirmed they are investigating Microsoft for possible breaches of anti-monopoly laws, following a series of surprise visits to Redmond's offices in cities across China on Monday. In a Chinese-language statement posted to its website on Tuesday (see robo-translation), China's State Administration for …

  1. John Savard Silver badge


    Requiring Microsoft to port Office to the Linux operating system would be a rather novel application of antitrust, given that programs are generally written to run on a particular environment. What next, Windows being illegally tied to the Intel x86 architecture?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surprising

      Nope, not illegally tied, because there are ports of Windows to ARM… and historically they had a version that supported other architectures like MIPS and SuperH.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surprising

      I thought Office already ran on Linux via Wine? And Office certainly already runs on Mac OS-X and on IOS.

      Regarldess of that, why would Microsoft be required to support an OS with only ~ 1% market share like Linux? Can't see that ever flying.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surprising

        I thought Office already ran on Linux via Wine?

        Painful, buggy, and there's probably something buried in the Office EULA to forbid it. I hardly think this is an acceptable means of running an application. I'll bet there's no technical support from Microsoft if you go this route either.

        And Office certainly already runs on Mac OS-X and on IOS.

        On the latter point I have to call bullshit, on the grounds that I doubt IOS has the necessary support to run a GUI desktop application as it was purely designed for network devices.

        Unless of course, you meant iOS, which is of course, a completely different OS.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surprising

      "Requiring Microsoft to port Office to the Linux operating system would be a rather novel application of antitrust"

      That isn't a likely or intended outcome. As the article states, the Chinese government tried and failed to introduce their own OS (Red Flag Linux), and due to that failure still have hundreds of millions of PCs running either pirated or legit copies of XP. With XP no longer supported, Redmond wanted a lot more for W7 licences, and the Chinese saw no reason to pay the higher price, or the ransom for extended XP support. The Chinese government already have the option of migrating to any one of a number of vanilla Linux distros and Open Office for next to nothing, but that's not what they want.

      The purpose of this investigation is simply to put some serious pressure on Redmond to offer much better terms for W7, and if they aren't forthcoming to fine Microsoft the difference between what they charge and what Beijing want to pay, as well as to force additional costs on them. The probable outcome of this will be that the Chinese government get a much better deal on W7, the investigation will eventually close with minimal or no fines. The only remarkable thing is that Redmond have tried to hold out against the Chinese government for so long, instead of accepting the inevitable, and looking for what would be the most positive outcome after accepting that China are going to pay them peanuts.

      An example of that would have been to offer China the price they want, but only for the flagging W8, which then gives W8 serious volume and (hopefully for MS) more traction in corporate markets. Instead, Redmond's stance has hardened Beijing's position on W8, meaning that the discussions centre either on the now five years old W7, or at best on having to give away W9. Having to massively discount your next operating system before it is launched would be a staggering strategic blunder for Microsoft, but they do have a history of epic strategic blundering.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surprising

        "The purpose of this investigation is simply to put some serious pressure on Redmond to offer much better terms for W7"

        Presuambly because it's much tougher to pirate it than with Windows XP.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Surprising

          "Presuambly because it's much tougher to pirate it than with Windows XP."

          I doubt that. If the Chinese government wanted to pirate W7, then they've certainly got the resources to do so by reverse engineering the code and replacing the bits they don't like - no need to rely on a handful of criminals working in a darkened room when you've got several divisions of the PLA dedicated to cyber warfare, plus free access to every university and major tech company in the land. For reasons of trade alone, though, the Chinese government doesn't want to cause too much offence to the US, so the current policy is that it would like government use to be above board and legal, just not as expensive.

          There's some curious things here: I can't say why Red Flag Linux didn't work out - given the one party state you'd have thought the technologists could make it work, and the government users would adopt it because they were told to (with a side order of threat of force). But it didn't work, and looking at where they are now, if I were the Chinese government, I'd be offering a couple of billion dollar endowments to (say) Ubuntu and Open Office to make their products as slick and even more user friendly than Microsoft's offering with a view to getting a Chinese Linux version that people wanted to use, and of weakening the US corporate hold on global desktop software. By way of comparison, if Microsoft could sell Windows and Office at US prices, they'd be raking about $15bn a year from China, all straight to the bottom line, so investing comparatively small sums in alternative software they'd be much better off. And as another comparison the costs of getting Ubuntu where it is today are probably around $200m tops (initial investment, acquistions and operating losses), so a billion dollars on top would really make a difference.

      2. Rick Giles

        Re: Surprising

        Me thinks China needs to make a visit to Munich...

  2. Chris Miller

    What Microsoft are accused of

    Not paying sufficient bribes to members of The Party.

  3. Cliff

    Monopoly of five licenced copies?

    It does seem a little perverse that they only have the monopoly position because more people steal their software than steal other people's or use free software. Actually it seems majorally perverse and somewhat fucked-up to penalise someone for benefiting from using something you stole from them to begin with.

    Great to hear the government *plans* to replace hooky copies with legit ones -that means they're almost certainly currently even using stolen MS software to audit the monopoly position.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    How can Office be illegaly tied to Windows when it runs on Mac & Android also?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mac?

      Are the Mac and Android versions functionally equivalent to the Windows version?

      1. Crazy Operations Guy

        Re: Mac?

        The Mac version certainly, android version not so much, but its on par with most of the other office suites available for Android.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Mac?

          The Mac version is missing a lot of features, especially Outlook. I hate it when my boss comes up and says, "how do I get that in Outlook?"

          "You can't."

          "But my assistant has it."

          "Yes, but she is using Windows."

          It also has some problems accurately display presentations, if textboxes are filled to the limit - the OS X rendering of fonts means that boxes that look fine on Windows sometimes wrap under OS X.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Mac?

            "But my assistant has it."

            "You need to buy a real computer without the Apple tax if you want that"

  5. jmkni

    The 90's called

    Ok so I can't think of a good 90's called joke in regards to anti-trust lawsuits, but you get the idea

  6. returnmyjedi

    MS should counter sue the Chinese government for not allowing any other political parties to stands against them.

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      But first...

      They'd have to get the Chinese Constitution changed.

      Actually, China does have other political parties, and they even have representatives with seats, but only the Communist Party is allowed to be the Government. I think they asked Lewis Carroll to write a democratic constitution.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But first...

        "I think they asked Lewis Carroll to write a democratic constitution."

        They probably got in the same consultants that the Americans used in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    2. Micha Roon

      stealing from a thief is still stealing

      you can not counter an allegation on the basis that the other person is a worse criminal than you are.

      If you go and steal from the thief who stole from you, it is still illegal. As Apple was reminded when they tried to excuse their anti competitive behaviour in the book market with the argument: "Amazon is worse than we are"

  7. tempemeaty

    "The Big One"

    That is one of the American Exec's name for the Chinese market. Now that they have kicked the American customers and workers around enough to wear out their welcome here in the US, they find that they and their practices are not so welcome in "The Big One" either.

  8. Schultz Silver badge

    With decades of experience as monopolist ...

    I would assume that MS keeps the paper trail clear of incriminating evidence. But then who knows what they are writing down in Chinese.

  9. Mark 85 Silver badge

    A bit of flaky math here methinks.

    China can fine MS up to 10% of it's revenue. So if MS is only selling 10% of the MS software used in China and the rest being pirated, will they get credit for the stuff that's been pirated?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What goes around, comes around.

    I knew the day that George W. Bush agreed to sign the Most Favoured Nation Trading Status with China that we would live to regret it. Now, we are regretting it.

  11. MrDamage


    A country which gives you one choice of political party complaining about the lack of choice for Office Suites.

  12. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    Think I'll get the popcorn out...

    Surely MS's long-term gameplan was to let the Chinese users pirate their software until they were addicted, and then turn up the anti-piracy heat for good profit, eventually. Now let's see China's counter-play.

  13. Fihart

    Just a regular software audit.

    "......following a series of surprise visits to Redmond's offices in cities across China on Monday."

    Probably intended to intimidate rather than discover anything relevant.

    Do Microsoft do spot checks on customers ?

    1. mathew42

      Re: Just a regular software audit.

      Yes, Microsoft do audit customers and IT departments will tell you it is a nightmare unless you have signed up to an all encompassing volume licensing package that covers just about everything.

      I know personally of global companies that are trying to move towards open source as quickly as possible because of the cost and business impact of audits.

  14. James Pickett

    If there's a supplier monopoly, shouldn't they be chasing the pirates?

    I remember a BBC journalist reporting from Beijing that he tried to buy a legitimate copy of Office, but it was really difficult, and the shrink-wrapped product he finally bought also turned out to be pirated.

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