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Microsoft in Chinese burn ENIGMA: Anti-trust agents' 'sudden visit' to offices

No Windows into government's surprise act

Great Wall of China

Four of Microsoft's offices in China were "visited" by antitrust regulators on Monday, but neither the software and devices giant nor the Chinese government has explained why.

"We aim to build products that deliver the features, security and reliability customers expect, and we will address any concerns the government may have," a Microsoft spokesperson told The Register via email today, deftly avoiding any disclosure of information.

The visits, which reportedly occurred at Microsoft offices in Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Shanghai, were described by The New York Times as "sudden," but the Chinese government gave no reason for them publicly.

The agency responsible was China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce, which handles antitrust investigations, among other matters.

Scrutiny of American companies operating in the Middle Kingdom is said to have increased following NSA leaker Edward Snowden's disclosures about the extent of US government surveillance – although Chinese authorities have not admitted to any direct connection between intelligence activities and their oversight of US firms.

Some Chinese government bureaus have even gone as far as to ban their staff from installing Windows 8 on PCs, claiming that the cost of upgrading to Redmond's latest OS would inevitably lead to increased software piracy in offices.

China is already considered one of the world's worst offenders where it comes to bootleg applications, with 74 per cent of all software in the country being used without a license, according to the latest figures [PDF] from the Business Software Alliance.

Whatever the Chinese government's reason for knocking on Microsoft's doors this week, however, neither it nor the software giant seem willing to discuss the matter.

"There was a visit from government officials to our offices," a Microsoft spokeswoman told The New York Times. "Given the sensitivity of the issue, I can't say anymore." ®

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