China needs to develop domestic operating systems to compete with overseas firms

By Xiao Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2017/3/23 22:43:40

Microsoft's reentry into China's government procurement software market is on the horizon, as a company spokesperson told the Global Times on Wednesday that the US software giant is looking to make Windows 10 available for the Chinese government.

This illustrates the continued efforts made by the world's second-largest economy to open up its government procurement market despite growing cyber security concerns and also implies that there have been lackluster outcomes in the development of indigenous operating systems.

Security concerns prompted China to ban the use of Windows 8 on newly procured government computers in May 2014. A month earlier, the software behemoth ended its 13-year support for the older XP operating system that had been widely installed in personal computers as well as computers used by government agencies in China, putting the country's computer security in a vulnerable position.

While the country remains concerned about cyber security threats, Microsoft's year-plus effort to develop a modified version of its latest operating system for the Chinese government,  has laid the foundation for Windows to reappear on China's procurement list. To enable the availability of Windows 10 for government agencies, Microsoft announced a joint venture with the State-owned China Electronics Technology Group at the end of 2015.

This is a manifestation of the increased opening of the Chinese market that provides abundant chances for both domestic and overseas qualified manufacturers and service providers. In contrast, in the US, security threats often serve as an excuse to bar Chinese tech giants, notably Huawei, from accessing its market.

Worth noting is that security woes not only justify China's dynamic adjustment of items approved for government procurement, but also make the case for the creation of homegrown operating systems. Nevertheless, China is still a ways off from domestically developed operating systems, such as Linux-based NeoKylin, expected to be on par with Microsoft's Windows. That Windows 10, albeit being a customized version, is close to being able to be installed on government computers speaks for the popularity of Windows over China's homegrown alternatives.

As such, in addition to continued efforts that ensure foreign information technology providers are welcome, the country must step up actions to work out indigenous operating system solutions that are truly viable. Only in this way will China push ahead with market-oriented reforms while shifting toward being innovative across the board.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.



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