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October 28, 2008

Microsoft "hacking" computers in China?

Posted: 12:06 PM ET

An anti-piracy campaign by Microsoft is having a difficult time in China. The company may face an investigation from local authorities who allege Microsoft is trying to “hack” consumer computers.

Getty Images

Microsoft started a global plan in August to upgrade one of its anti-piracy tools, to make a stand against bogus copies of Windows XP Professional. PCs running either genuine or counterfeit XP Pro will automatically update themselves with an authorization evaluation program. Computers installed with the phony software will thereafter display a black desktop at start-up and revert to black again in an hour even if the background is changed. A permanent notice will also appear at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen warning users to purchase genuine XP copies. However, all programs will run normally.

The campaign expanded to China last week, and induced scares and firestorms among the large PC population, which exceeds 135 million.

More than 80% of the 60,000 Internet users participating in an online survey conducted by Tencent, one of the largest Internet service portals in China, protested the campaign. They complained that it was the high price of a legitimate copy of XP that had forced them to turn to counterfeits. A genuine copy of XP Pro is priced at $376 (2,578 yuan) in the Chinese market.

A lawsuit followed. On the second day of the campaign’s landing, Dong Zhengwei, a lawyer specialized in consumer rights protection, charged Microsoft with potentially sabotaging private computers. He suggested a billion-dollar fine for Microsoft.

Dong said that the anti-piracy program would “pose a threat to personal information security” and could be defined as a “crime.” “It is equivalent to illegal invasion, or hacking,” he said on Sina, the largest Chinese news portal. Many of the country’s computer societies, IT critics and scholars also stated their agreement with Dong.

In response, Microsoft China’s Intellectual Property Rights Supervisor Yu Weidong explained that this was a global campaign that aimed to educate consumers and keep them from harmful counterfeits.
The program would not affect normal functions of a PC and the company would not collect any personal information through it, he said.

On October 27, a week after the debate began, Chinese authorities made a statement that it supports any legal campaigns to protect intellectual property rights. But, “the companies should weigh their approaches and consider the affordability of Chinese consumers,” said Yan Xiaohong, deputy director of China’s National Copyright Administration.

Although more than 80% of surveyed Internet users in China told Sina that they would not purchase legitimate XP copies, Microsoft's campaign, in combination with promotions on Office and Vista, did push up the company’s overall sales by roughly 60%. But, some free open-source software also witnessed a huge increase in sales, apparently thanks to Microsoft’s crackdown.

And more experienced PC users said they had simply shut down the “automatic update” function to avoid the “black screen” desktop and additional costs.

Chong Wu, CNN Science and Technology

Filed under: computers • consumer tech • Windows

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Mike   November 11th, 2008 11:25 pm ET

Good for China. If only the people in this country had that kind of balls. We could put Microsoft in it's place.

What   November 12th, 2008 7:49 am ET

Anybody backing China over Microsoft is communist and un-american. Microsoft may be scumbags, but they're OUR scumbags, and China more or less owns this country as it is. Microsoft shouldn't have to pay for what they should be getting paid for.

Darren   November 12th, 2008 9:12 am ET

The idea that China is somehow strange for thinking that its consumers should be given leniency given the high percentage of pirated copies is not exactly that unusual. Perhaps it is unspoken, but this is largely the principle already in place in the United States that prevents our myriad software pirates from getting hit with huge fines and/or criminal charges.

Franko   November 12th, 2008 9:37 am ET

"Microsoft “hacking”" ??
Worse than that - look at the picture in the article above

Zombie Bubbleheads, MonoSoft logo imprinted
Phoning home for orders, spying for the new world order

Gates and Baldhead have license to perform brain surgery ?

mitz   November 12th, 2008 11:13 am ET

....nothing like complaining that the software that you stole should be protected by consumer advocacy. Doesn't being a consumer mean that you actually buy the product? If you don't like Windows, use Linux, it's free. If you want Windows, pay up! The Chinese are notorious for reverse engineering auto designs and stealing techology, this isn't new for them.

jasonvsfreddy   November 12th, 2008 1:16 pm ET

What about those that unknowingly purchased a pirated copy of XP. The pirated packaging looks as original as Microsoft's. Also what if they paid some tech guy, to install what they thought was genuine XP.

If you paid someone for a computer that didn't belong to them, and you didn't know, and the police come and take it from you. Wouldn't you be upset. Now their anger is misplaced, it shouldn't be at MS, but whoever they got pirated copies from.

Steve   November 12th, 2008 1:58 pm ET

I already use a "black" background, so I wouldn't notice the difference.

And $395 for XP pro is way , way , way out of line.

Buy an OEM version for maybe $100.

Proud American   November 12th, 2008 1:59 pm ET

Microsoft has no gonads, they should have used an American flag for the background instead of just a black one. I bet the fine the lawyer asked for then would have been 2 Billion. Get this straight, the Chinese are not our friends, they are our trading partners and they're cheating. Most likely with government backing (why should their citizens pay money to the US when they can get it cheap and the money stay in China) or at least tacit approval. I think Microsoft showed great restraint in such a soft warning, I would have sent a program to wipe the hard drive when a illigal copy tried to update (but that's just me I don't like thieves) but they don't want to alienate such a large market. It's the Chinese government here that is the problem, not the Chinese people.

GHynson   November 12th, 2008 2:31 pm ET

Torrent sites already have a patch to counter this M$ move.
It's no biggy.

OSS Support   November 12th, 2008 5:37 pm ET

They should have just used one of the open source distributions of linux, then they wouldn't have to worry about whether or not their copy of Windows was legitimate or not nor would they have the concerns of how much the OS cost.

Franko   November 12th, 2008 10:30 pm ET

"Microsoft has no gonads, they should have used an American flag"
Legal entity, waving public US identifiable parts, that it does not own.
Desecrating the American flag - inviting ridicule, hatred, and trouble
Motivating roadside, and suicide bombs
Protection of capital more important than the poor US kidnapped tourist

Kevin   November 13th, 2008 4:05 am ET

$300+ for the only quality product Microsuck ever released – and still not worth a single penny.

Switch to Mac.

Daniel   November 13th, 2008 7:21 am ET

If Microsoft had balls, they would add some extras to the pirated versions. We get the Blue screen of death here after paying. Maybe give it to them every 15minutes and have the speakers blast some random static.
Then again, I am all for them crippling the networks and erasing everything from the hard drives.

Bill   November 13th, 2008 8:45 am ET

Franko you crack me up too. I can't help but think you picked your name as short for Frankenstein because of your poetry's grotesqueness :). Let me see if I can do something more grotesque...

When you're on vacation
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with no other option
where do you go?


Jack   November 13th, 2008 9:37 am ET

Okay, I keep reading stuff about "Why am I not supprised microsoft is getting this crap from china", but we realy have no room to complain. Exuse my language, but America is pretty much China's bitch right now. We owe them BILLIONS of dollars, and they have chosen to keep lending to us! They can call our card at any moment, and microsoft is about to piss them off. I am not disputing microsoft's rights to do what they are doing, but they are gonna screw america over if they keep it up. It's obvious this is a warning from china to back off.

Jack   November 13th, 2008 9:43 am ET

Sorry for the double post, but wiping the hardrive WOULD be illegal on Microsoft's part.

Franko   November 13th, 2008 10:23 am ET

Chinese have the most extensive cousine
More than just truffles, noodles, and escargot
Boiled alive crabs and cats, nests stolen from the birds
Even dishes of private parts of animals
Eat a whole elephant bone ? cannot, ask for a giant sized doggie bag ?

Lucky for us, Chinese are civilized.
Do not boil alive the War Eagles lost tourists
Do not collapse US economy
Situation is different in the istans - Worry about that.

Bill   November 13th, 2008 11:23 am ET

Good thing I'm not the only one who isn't politically - and poetically - incorrect 🙂

Bill   November 13th, 2008 11:39 am ET

Oops, Mr./Ms. Moderator, can you still correct my typo? It should have been "is" not "isn't". Thank you.

Franko   November 13th, 2008 1:02 pm ET

China will catch and boil in oil, the imaginary infallibility of the SoftWar
Serve it back, without copyright restrictions; tofoo, rice and ginseng

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