RealTime IT News

Gates Lets China Peek Through Windows

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates on a tour in China said his company will allow the Chinese government partial access to the source code of its Windows operating system.

Microsoft said it would only share some details about its proprietary source code, but it's considered a major win for Microsoft to have China join its Government Security Program (GSP). China is one of several countries, including Russia, NATO and the United Kingdom, participating in the recently launched Microsoft program aimed, at part, in trying to reverse negative perceptions of the company.

At issue, is whether Microsoft's software provides adequate security for governments, and their classified data. Piracy of Microsoft software in China is also a huge problem, and the Chinese government and Microsoft are keen to jointly stem its tide.

Microsoft has clearly made a decision that China, the world's biggest market with immense potential for growth over the next decade, is a place it will be putting considerable resources towards. Microsoft has said it will invest $750 million in China from 2003-2005.

The China Information Technology Security Certification Center (CNITSEC) is the official Chinese body that signed the deal with Microsoft. Chinese officials have reiterated the importance of information technology security as one of the key planks of the government's program. CNITSEC will have controlled access of Windows source code and other technical information regarding product security.

Microsoft is in talks with more than 30 countries and other international organizations to potentially participate in its Government Security Program.

Gates met with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, and Microsoft's deals with the Chinese mark a major step forward in this huge market. China is also producing its own version of Linux, known as Red Flag Linux, and an office productivity suit called RedOffice, which compete directly with Microsoft's Windows and Office software packages.

The open source nature of Linux has gained interest by many foreign governments, interested in having the flexibility to make modifications of the code. While Microsoft is providing a peek inside Windows to foreign governments, it is a still a controlled, proprietary operating system. Microsoft says it will offer source codes underpinning its Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Windows CE.NET software.

IDC estimates that the Chinese government will make software purchases over the next five years in excess of $700 million. By offering its source code and sealing several deals in China, Gates is positioning Microsoft for a major share of that future revenue.