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China's Love-Hate Relationship with Windows 8 and IE

Posted in Business on June 14th 2014
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A couple of weeks ago, in what can be seen as a bit of a hizzy fit, China announced it would be banning **Windows 8** from all its government computers. The reason? Microsoft's refusal to extend the life of Windows XP and provide technical support for it. This is certainly bad news for the guys at Redmond who are currently working on a hopefully better Windows 9. They haven't even released the upcoming version, and already there's a ban for their product in the world's second largest PC market. ## Piracy is the norm In some ways, banning all things Windows was a bold move on the Chinese government’s part. If they’re truly enforcing the ban, they would essentially be giving up their long-time favorite desktop OS, Windows XP, which means even their bootleg XP versions will have to go now. Yes, bootleg. It’s no secret that software piracy is rampant in China—it’s pretty much a way of life here. Vendors in neat, decent-looking shops brazenly sell pirated versions of practically every movie, album and software ever made—including Windows—to customers in broad daylight. Based on 2011 figures, it is estimated that as much as [77% of all software in China is pirated](http://www.zdnet.com/blog/china/report-chinas-software-piracy-rate-falls-to-new-low-of-77/414). It's not all bad though! That same year, the Chinese Government launched efforts to curtail the use of pirated software, spending 1 billion RMB on original software, as well as setting up training courses to increase awareness on copyright protection. ## Land of Contradictions If there is one positive thing to come out of the Windows 8 ban, is that it will (hopefully!) also mean giving up Internet Explorer, the much loved default browser bundled in Windows. Since Microsoft prevented updates to the system if the OS license was pirated, users have been stuck with old versions of the browser forever. According to the latest figures, **IE8 has a 33.46% market share** in China, followed by Google Chrome (26.5%), and then followed by IE6 (7.77%). Meanwhile, newer versions of IE and browsers such as Safari and Firefox got far less, which goes to show that Chinese netizens aren’t very keen on buying a legitimate Windows copy so that they can update and enjoy a more stable and secure browsing. The situation was even worse back in 2012 when Internet Explorer 6 was still widely used in the country, with a 21.3% market share. China stubbornly relied on the browser because crucial websites such as government, banks, and some online shopping sites, seem to be trapped in a time machine and don't support modern browsers. That’s the paradoxical thing about China. Despite all the technological progress it currently enjoys—it still finds time to cling to some bad technological habits, a sort of laziness to update and upgrade the status quo. As writer Eveline Chao puts it on [an article](http://motherboard.vice.com/en_uk/blog/why-does-china-still-use-fax-machines-and-internet-explorer-6--2) on Motherboard: > "This [IE 6 popularity] isn’t the only creaky-sounding technology requirement of life in China. There’s fax machines (many companies and government bureaus will only accept inquiries via fax, which they never actually answer), the need to lug enormous wads of cash around (the largest denomination is 100 yuan, or about 14 dollars, no one has checkbooks, and hardly anyone uses or takes credit cards), and lots of annoying little pieces of tissue-thin paper (at hospitals and stores, where you have to travel around to multiple counters getting slips of white, pink, and yellow duplicate paper filled out and stamped by different people before they’ll let you get anywhere near that X-ray/eyeshadow)." ## Changing Browsing Habits With XP now gone, Chinese netizen will have to change their browsing habits or else stick with the now-unsecured OS and suffer the consequences. In many ways, Microsoft’s decision to end Windows XP was more than reasonable. Web developers cannot keep making websites that work with old unsecured IE versions forever, just to accommodate the millions of users who refuse to update their systems. It's not just Microsoft itself that is trying to encourage people to keep up with change though. Initiatives such as [browser-update.org](http://www.browser-update.org/), which prompts people to update their browser if the one they used to access a website is out of date, have been making progress, but there is still a long way to go. On an individual basis, websites can play a part too. For example, an Australian eCommerce took the initiative to charge customers who use IE7 an extra [6,8% "tax](http://gizmodo.com/5918599/australian-electronics-retailer-shame-taxes-customers-who-use-internet-explorer-7)". Whether this works or it's fair at all, it's up for debate. If we are talking about updating old versions of IE, there is no excuse not to do it. However, updating Windows isn't free, so for most Chinese people using it, it's a case of if it's not broken why spend money to fix it? If other OS can be distributed freely, why can’t Microsoft do the same for Windows? Making it free would save them the headache of forcing people out of systems they are already used to even if the alternative is a million times better. What do you think it's the best strategy for making the web a better more up-to-date place? Let us know in the comments below!