Windows XP will reach End of Life next April, but the
Chinese government wants an extension instead of migrating to Windows 8.
With the upcoming end of extended support for Windows XP on
April 8th, 2014, most IT shops are working to upgrade systems still
running the now 12-year-old operating system, if they haven’t already. Among the most notable groups still holding onto Windows XP
is the government of the People’s Republic of China. According to StatCounter, Windows XP remains in use on 50.48% of computers in China as of December 2013, down
from 63.68% one year ago.
These aren’t all pirated copies of Windows, either. China’s
National Copyright Bureau has performed investigations of computers in central
and provincial government offices, and last year, the Chinese government spent $160 million (USD) on software licenses to ensure that government computers were
running properly sourced, licensed software. After such an investment, appetites
for purchasing new licenses for Windows are slim. This has led to a request
from Beijing to extend support for Windows XP in China.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a difficult thing for Microsoft to do, as
paid private support for Windows XP will continue to be offered by Redmond at a
hefty fee that increases every year. Of note, extended support for Windows XP
Embedded, which shares a great deal of code with “standard” Windows XP, does not
end until January 12, 2016.
In addition, Beijing is requesting Microsoft resume sales of
low-cost versions of Windows 7 (presumably Windows 7 Starter and/or Home Basic)
that were discontinued at the launch of Windows 8. Although there was an
announcement of a presumably lower-cost “Windows 8 for China” by Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President Steve Guggenheimer,
this product appears to have been scuttled.
The adoption rate of Windows 8 in China is well below the already poor figures seen worldwide. At present, the global combined market share
of Windows 8 and 8.1 is 9.30%, according to NetMarketShare.
In China, the combined market share of Windows 8 and 8.1 is 3.48%. The adoption
rate of Windows 7 in China far outpaces the growth of Windows 8: Over the last
12 months, use of Windows 7 jumped from 31.2% to 40.24%.
The slow adoption of Windows 8 in China is a complex problem,
parts of which are unique to China. Here are three reasons why:

1: Microsoft won’t sell Windows 8 in stores

Microsoft has declined to manufacture and sell Windows 8 media and boxes for Chinese retailers.
Instead, Windows 8 is only available through sales of new devices through OEMs
and online through software downloads. This is an apparent attempt to combat software piracy by making Windows
8 more difficult to locate and purchase. Consequently, all boxed versions of Windows 8 in China are either illegitimate or imported.

2: Nobody knows how to market Windows 8

The problem isn’t exactly specific to China, as Microsoft’s
marketing stateside is fraught with bizarre commercials, but its marketing efforts in China are completely
beyond the comprehension of the public. For example, take a look at the following Windows 8 videos:

This isn’t a slight against the intelligence
of the Chinese, because the commercials aren’t in any particular language at all. In comparison, Microsoft’s advertisements in India aren’t appreciably better, but the background music features vocals in an actual language.

Historically, this has been a long-standing issue at Microsoft, dating
back to its attempts to sell Windows Vista by having Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates not talk about the product at all.

In fairness, the introduction of Windows 8.1 has brought a new round of Windows 8 advertisements to the United States, which actually highlight benefits of
the product.

3: Don’t call it “Metro”

Microsoft squandered an opportunity to correct the complaints
regarding Metro in the Windows 8.1 update — instead, it continues to force users
to boot to Metro. The reintroduction of the Start button is simply cosmetic, because it doesn’t serve the purpose that it served in previous versions of Windows.
Instead, the great improvement in Windows 8 is the ability to pin up to four Metro
apps in one screen, a feature first introduced in Windows 1.01. With the forced
tiling, garish color scheme, and odd UI decisions, Windows 8 is far more like
Windows 1 than any of the intermediate versions, as pointed out by The Verge.

Final thoughts

Microsoft continues to fight the problem it’s had for
quite some time — namely, its biggest competitor is its own back catalogue. How
would you, as an IT decision maker, advise on how to proceed? Let us know in
the comments section below.