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Microsoft faces 'monopoly' investigation as Chinese officials begin probe

Officials of China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce visited four of Microsoft’s offices as part of enquiries into Windows’ dominant position in the country.

Image: Ted S. Warren/AP/Press Association Images

A CHINESE PROBE into Microsoft is probably targeting its “monopoly” of the country’s operating systems market, state media said Tuesday, after the US software giant became the latest foreign firm under Beijing’s scrutiny.

Microsoft confirmed in a statement late Monday that it was under investigation in China, without disclosing details.

“We aim to build products that deliver the features, security and reliability customers expect, and we will address any concerns the government may have,” it said.

The inquiry comes after China in May banned the use of Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system on all new government computers, amid reports alleging security concerns.

Also in May, the United States indicted five members of a Chinese military unit for allegedly hacking US companies for trade secrets.

Officials of China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) have visited Microsoft offices in Beijing, commercial hub Shanghai, southern metropolis Guangzhou and southwest Chengdu city for enquiries, state media said Monday.

“Microsoft’s operating system software occupies a 95% share of the market in China, forming a de facto monopoly,” the National Business Daily said Tuesday.

An employee of Microsoft China linked the visits to the company’s monopoly in China’s operating system market, the China Business News said Tuesday, without naming the individual.

It quoted another industry source tying the case to Microsoft’s practice of bundling its products together for sale.

SAIC officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment by AFP.

Microsoft has previously faced antitrust investigations in other markets for tying its Windows system to other products.

The US company was fined $731 million (€544 million) by the European Commission in March last year for failing to offer users browser choices beyond its own Internet Explorer.

Since last year, China has launched a sweeping probe into alleged wrongdoings by foreign companies in several sectors, including the pharmaceutical and milk powder industries.

- © AFP, 2014

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