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.