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Microsoft faces new antitrust inquiry in China


HONG KONG — A Chinese regulator said on Tuesday that it would open a new antitrust investigation of Microsoft, related to electronic data that the government collected as part of an earlier inquiry.


Despite Microsoft's recent steps to improve relations with the Chinese government, the announcement is a reminder of the regulatory challenges that multinational companies face in the country, one of the world's largest technology and consumer markets. Last year, Qualcomm paid a fine of $975 million for violating China's antimonopoly law, and in 2014, Volkswagen and Chrysler were fined a total of $46 million for violating antitrust rules.


In July of that year, about 100 SAIC officials stormed four Microsoft offices in China, questioning executives, copying contracts and records, and downloading data from the company's servers, including email and other internal communications.


The Chinese regulator said it was seeking answers to "major questions" that arose from the data but did not provide any further details of the investigation on Tuesday. Analysts have said that Microsoft's difficulties in China began in 2014, when the company decided to end support and security updates for Windows XP, an aging software line that it hoped users would replace by upgrading to Windows 10 or other recent operating systems.

工商总局周二表示,正在为这些数据存在的“重大问题”寻求答案,但并没有提供这项调查的进一步细节。分析人士表示,微软在中国的困境始于2014年,当时公司决定不再为老旧的Windows XP版本提供支持和安全更新,希望用户升级到Windows10或该操作系统的其他较新版本。

With many Chinese companies and government offices running versions of old Microsoft software like XP, the move highlighted the country's reliance on the American company. Even though the bulk of Chinese users of Microsoft software acquired pirated versions without paying Microsoft, the company was nonetheless criticized for ending support in favor of its newer software.


In an article about the investigation published on Tuesday, China's state-run news agency Xinhua said that Microsoft was suspected in 2014 of causing computer compatibility problems by not fully disclosing information about its Windows operating system and Microsoft Office suite of applications. "According to Chinese law," the article said, "incompatibility without advance warning to customers could be regarded" as being anticompetitive.


A Microsoft spokesman, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity as a matter of policy, said on Tuesday that the company was "serious about complying with China's laws and committed to addressing SAIC's questions and concerns."


Microsoft has sought in recent months to improve its relations with China's government. The company held a prominent meeting of Chinese and American tech leaders in Seattle in September that was a major stop of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, during his tour of the United States. Microsoft's founder, Bill Gates, also hosted Mr. Xi at his house.

最近几个月,微软一直试图改善与中国政府的关系。去年9月,公司在西雅图举办了一场面向中美科技行业领袖的重量级会议。这也是习近平访美期间的重要一站。微软创始人比尔·盖茨(Bill Gates)还在自己家里招待了习近平。

During the meeting, Microsoft announced several partnerships, including a cooperative effort with the China Electronics Technology Group, a state-run company that makes technologies to support the Chinese military. That effort is meant to help tailor Windows 10 to the demands of the Chinese government.

在会上,微软宣布了几项合作,包括与中国电子科技集团的一项合作计划。该集团是一家国企,为中国军方提供技术支持。这些努力意在根据中国政府的需求帮助定制Windows 10。


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