China Targets Microsoft in Possible Monopoly Probe

Microsoft appears to have attracted the attention of Chinese business regulators, soon after the announcement of an antitrust investigation into U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm. The New York Times’ Andrew Jacobs and Chris Buckley report:

China is still one of the largest and most promising markets for United States tech companies, as well as home to the factories that make devices as varied as iPhones and Xboxes. But tensions between the United States and China have escalated over spying concerns by both sides. And in recent months Chinese authorities have increased their scrutiny of foreign tech companies.

At the same time, they appear to be stepping up their use of laws to help bolster the fortunes of native technology companies.

[…] The officials from the State Administration for Industry and Commerce visited Microsoft offices in four cities — Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu — Joanna Li, a public relations officer for the company, confirmed in a phone interview, answering questions about earlier reports in the Chinese news media.

“There was a visit from government officials to our offices,” she said. “Given the sensitivity of the issue, I can’t say anymore.” [Source]

Last month, China banned the use of Windows 8 on government computers, driving Microsoft to defend itself on Weibo against charges of harvesting data for the U.S. government. Apple has also faced claims by state broadcaster CCTV that iPhone location tracking poses a threat to national security, and similarly denied this in a bilingual statement on its Chinese website. Xinhua reports that CCTV’s claims have gained little public traction, though a proposal to ban officials from using iPhones garnered more approval according to Global Times.

Meanwhile, access to Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage service was disrupted earlier this month, while Chinese gamers have been incensed by recurring rumors that its XBox One console will cost far more in China than in the U.S.. All these headaches follow criticism in February over alleged political censorship of search results on the China version of its Bing search engine.