Microsoft wraps up special Windows 10 edition for China's government

Makes good on December announcement to partner with state-owned defense contractor

Microsoft has completed work on the first version of Windows 10 designed specifically for Chinese government agencies, according to a report from the People's Republic of China (PRC) last week.

In an interview with the China-based publication Caixin, the head of Microsoft's efforts in the PRC said that the initial version of the special edition had been finished.

The English-language website TechInAsia first reported on the Caixin interview with Ralph Haupter, CEO of Microsoft's Greater China region.

Haupter did not detail the changes Microsoft made for the Chinese government edition, although he alluded to some of the same differences between the consumer and the top-end commercial Enterprise SKU (stock-keeping unit), including a de-emphasis of consumer-oriented features and applications.

In December, Microsoft announced that it would partner with China Electronics Technology Group (CETC) to create C&M Information Technologies to license Windows 10 to government agencies and some state-owned corporations, including those that control energy, telecommunications and transportation.

Under the deal Microsoft struck with CETC, C&M was to be the exclusive licensee of Windows 10, would create custom Windows 10 images for those customers that will include government-mandated antivirus software, and provide activation and update services -- presumably based on Microsoft's current technologies -- as well as deployment services and support.

CETC was an interesting partner for Microsoft, as it is one of 10 state-owned defense contractors. CETC manages scores of research institutes and more than 180 commercial subsidiaries, most of them involved in defense-related research and development, the production of defense and dual-use electronics, or supplying the People's Liberation Army (PLA), government agencies and state-run companies with technology.

Microsoft holds a minority stake of 49% in C&M; CETC controls the remaining 51%.

When it announced the joint venture, Microsoft stressed that it, not the PRC's Communist government, would retain control of the operating system. "We will maintain ownership of the core Windows 10 technology while working, as we've always done, to allow customers and partners to build components that plug into our platform," said Yusuf Mehdi, a senior executive in the Windows and devices group, in December.

Windows 10 maintains a tenuous beachhead in the PRC. According to Baidu, China's largest search provider, Windows 10 powered just 4.5% of the PCs that reached 150,000 websites in the country last month.

Meanwhile, Windows 7 accounted for 51% of the usage share measured by Baidu, while Windows XP, the OS Microsoft retired nearly two years ago, ran 32.9%, or nearly a third, of all personal computers. Altogether, Microsoft's various versions powered almost 94% of all PCs in the PRC during February, a slightly higher percentage than worldwide, according to U.S.-based analytics firm Net Applications.

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