back to article China: You, Microsoft. Office-Windows 'compatibility'. You have 20 days to explain

China's antitrust regulator has given Microsoft 20 days to hand over a written explanation of how the Windows OS works together with the bundled Office software suite as part of its probe into the firm’s alleged monopoly activities. The State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) said in a statement (translated by …

  1. Cipher
    Big Brother

    Perhaps this gets sorted when...

    ...Microsoft offers Chinese State Security their own set of NSA Keys

    1. BillG Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps this gets sorted when...

      China's antitrust regulator has given Microsoft 20 days to hand over a written explanation of how the Windows OS works together with the bundled Office software suite...

      ..."so we can pirate it" said the Chinese regulator.

  2. Chika
    Big Brother

    The wonder...

    My own thought isn't that I consider that the Chinese are being too harsh on Microsoft. It's that more countries haven't done this. Perhaps this will be the catalyst that finally starts to reign in the corporate excesses of certain Merkan one-percenters.

    I'm not holding my breath though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The wonder...

      It is quite funny though.

      Step 1.The US starts off ignoring Chinese piracy because it gets them using US software and watching Hollywood films.

      Step 2. It starts trying to enforce its trade rules on other countries via the WTO (Washington Trade Organisation).

      Step 3. The other countries say "OK, we will introduce the same regulations you have."

      Step 4. The other countries start to enforce the regulations - against US companies. "But...this is what you wanted us to do".

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: The wonder...

      You mean like the EU did over a decade ago? Huge fines, strict rules on how they can sell their products, forcing them to release API documentation for their "hidden" APIs?

      1. Chika

        Re: The wonder...

        That sort of thing, yes. Or the failed case in the US a few years before that. Like I said, I'm not holding my breath...

      2. snowdude

        Re: The wonder...

        Forcing Microsoft to divulge APIs and document formats worked for a time. But, they have already fallen into their bad old ways. You try and get detailed information on their Outlook 2013 OST format! We've spoken to them several times, progressed to senior levels and then whole conversation shut-down.

        This might just give them a little reminder to play nice.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The wonder...

          > You try and get detailed information on their Outlook 2013 OST format! We've spoken to them several times, progressed to senior levels and then whole conversation shut-down.

          Back in '89 or so you could phone up their customer support line and get all those kind of details (like, system call parameters, interrupts, and so on) straight from the guy who picked up the phone, who back then was a proper engineer.

          I stopped using Microsoft software around '94, never having used Windows either personally or at work (to this day I haven't), but I very much have a feeling you won't get an engineer on the line these days, no matter how hard you try.

        2. testingtimes

          Re: The wonder...

          Emmm perhaps a little disingenuous OST is a cache format not a file format. The file format used by outlook is PST and that is publicly documented in MS-PST

  3. Test Man

    Sounds like a shakedown...

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Hmm, Office works fine with Windows... And reasonably well with OS X, iOS and Android... Next question please.

      1. dan1980

        Anti-trust is not about (in this instance) Microsoft's software being only available on Microsoft's OS but about Office potentially making use of hidden, undocumented APIs that give it an unfair advantage compared to competing 'Office' suites.

        1. Tom 35 Silver badge


          And file formats.

  4. i like crisps

    Get your shit together Microsoft...'re obviously not BRIBING the right 'officials'....this helpful hint is no charge to you sir.

    1. John Bailey

      Re: Get your shit together Microsoft...

      "'re obviously not BRIBING the right 'officials'....this helpful hint is no charge to you sir."

      Yep.. Looks like they have to bribe non American officials too.

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: Get your shit together Microsoft...

        Glaxo SmithKline thought they could bribe their way out of trouble in China, and it didn't work. China, while by no means perfect, is not like India or the USA in this respect.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Get your shit together Microsoft...

          Does this mean M$ execs could be given the death Death Penalty? (if they try to bribe officials, and it doesn't work)

          That would be all kinds of awesome. Real World payback.

          1. proto-robbie

            Re: Get your shit together Microsoft...

            Some sort of revenge for all those BSODs over the years, usually at the most inconvenient moments.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't imagine

    Microsoft doing anything but making those two work together as best as possible.

    1. present_arms

      Re: Can't imagine

      The problem isn't that Microsoft is making Office work nicely with Windows, the problem is HOW they are making it work nicely with windows at the detriment of other office suites. Of course they have done this kind of underhanded tricks before going back to early windows days when they made 3.1 more unstable or even not being able to run on anything but MS-DOS. Thus leveraging themselves.

    2. dan1980

      Re: Can't imagine

      Yes, the sad part is that the current state unfortunately is the best Microsoft can do.

  6. Adam 1 Silver badge

    I may be a bit slow, but as a developer I am struggling to think of any office feature that requires anything resembling a secret undocumented API call. The inputs are all keyboard, mouse and filesystem calls. The outputs are all canvases (screen/printer). The functionality whilst broad in reach with a feature set as long as your arm is not complex at any functional point that I can see.

    It is fair enough to criticise their not so open document formats but this argument about hidden APIs doesn't seem to hold a lot of water.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If you own both the OS and the application, it is possible to make the OS work for the application.

      1. present_arms

        Of course it's okay to make their Office work with their Windows, that's never been up for dispute, what is up for dispute (and yet to be proven this time, hence the investigation) is if Microsoft are using underhanded tactics to make sure that any other office suite has the same advantages as their own brand.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Or the other way round - are they using undocumented stuff to prevent Office for Windows working on other OS/emulators?

          Could be talking about wine on Linux (or what the Chinese are planning for an "own" OS), or maybe why Office 2013 is not playing nicely on XP...

          1. Adam 1 Silver badge

            >Could be talking about wine on Linux (or what the Chinese are planning for an "own" OS)

            I believe that theory is credible.

      2. RealFred

        Much like Apple does with its applications and idevices

      3. Adam 1 Silver badge

        >If you own both the OS and the application, it is possible to make the OS work for the application.

        As a generalisation I agree, but this would hold more water if it was say windows media player being able to use hidden optimisations to improve framerates or reduce battery drain, or SQL server getting some unique filesystem priority levels not adhered to for other dbms, but we are taking about a productivity suite. If you think about its limited technical requirements, there isn't a whole lot of ways to cripple their APIs that would benefit Office without the commensurate disadvantage to other products Microsoft need to maintain a viable desktop ecosystem.

        In terms of their Corel lawsuits that was quite a different story. The windows API was under active development and decisions could be made to drop or otherwise make specific calls suboptimal, and they could publicise them late in the development cycle for Corel for maximum interruptions and to give their own products an advantage. Completely unacceptable behaviour if true. But in 2014 I can easily write** an office competitor using Win API, .NET or Java and achieve a level of functionality and performance that Microsoft would prefer wasn't possible.

        ** actually, I couldn't, lacking the will, money, patience and expertise to undertake a project at that scale, but the point is that no magic API would ms office a measurable advantage.

        1. dan1980

          @Adam 1

          It doesn't have to be a big difference for it to be anti-competitive. It might be as simple as loading the program or opening files more quickly or quicker previews inside Explorer.

          I don't believe that anyone is claiming that there is some specific, insurmountable, hurdle for third party providers of 'productivity' software, but anti-competitive behaviour is anti-competitive behaviour and shouldn't be tolerated. After all, if it's happening with Office, why wouldn't it be happening with other, more important software?

    2. oldcoder

      you missed it.

      Then you missed all the lawsuits between MS and Corel/Word Perfect.

  7. Camilla Smythe Silver badge


    Anyone for Phorm?

    Like 'Sure, Right.'

    The Chinese are going to let Phorm install DPI kit with Phorm Written and Maintained Software in their networks in order to intercept communications.

    Damn these genetically modified orange, purple and pink striped flying elephants. I will have to get my XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXL large butterfly net out again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting..

      Nothing like investing in a company that is willing to trade dissidents and political opponents for money.

      Money and greed know no shame. That's why the rich keep getting richer and the rest of us will increasingly suffer their yoke.

  8. The Vociferous Time Waster
    Big Brother


    That's a nice productivity suite market share you've got there, it would be a shame if anything bad happened to it.

  9. Neil B

    I just can't take anything like this seriously from China.

    1. Notas Badoff

      It's a new fad.

      Russia says Polish potatoes are suddenly unhealthy, as are Lithuanian strawberries, etc., and bans imports. China suddenly has problems with unhealthy APIs from a certain company. You really think this has anything to do with the cited products? It's nation-state mafias!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's a new fad.

        > Russia says Polish potatoes are suddenly unhealthy

        To be fair, they might not be unhealthy, but sure as fuck they're rubbish (same as their export beef), which is why people from Kaliningrad just drive across the border to buy the real stuff.

        The Poles reciprocate by buying Russian petrol, at less than half the price in Poland.

      2. Scoular

        Re: It's a new fad.

        It is also right out of the US songbook

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I agree except that they have very carefully hit Microsoft's achilles, as per past Microsoft actions. I feel no sympathy for Microsoft due to China's stated action here.

  10. swschrad

    Dear Mr. or Mrs. China:

    It has come to the attention of our legal department that your laws infringe upon the ability of Microsoft to lock your users in and screw them over. This will never do, and as a result, we are rescinding your ability to exist as a nation. You are required to turn over the keys within 7 days and leave the territory, except for those workers who are grinding out wireless mice and Xboxes. Failure to do so will require stern measures.

    Sincerely, Microsoft

    1. Sureo

      Re: Dear Mr. or Mrs. China:

      If China doesn't like Windows, it should develop its own OS. Oh, wait...

      1. MyffyW Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Yes, I did wonder whether there was any connection between last weeks somewhat improbable "we'll develop a new OS in months" and todays MS shake-down. But I thought I was just being a suspicious cow.

        1. oldcoder

          All they have to do for their own OS..

          Is to add their own logos to a Linux distribution, and set the default language.

          Then do a good bit of testing.

  11. Queasy Rider

    A work of fiction on this very topic

    I stumbled across the free e-book THE BITE OF THE DRAGON by JF SUSBIELLE a few days ago. Although I doubt the consequences of banning Windows in China ever being so dire, the currency and topicality of the novel (written in 2007, pre-Snowdon no less) made for a fun read on a rainy day. I am surprised that nobody in this thread has recommended it yet... maybe in another, earlier thread then?

    You can find it here...

  12. ben_myers

    It's not just Office and Windows

    Microsoft has built a large intertwined software ecosystem that works best (and ONLY!) with Windows. Not only is there Office (in all of its flavors), but also SharePoint and all the little bits of software that lock you into the Microsoft way. All that Active X, DOT NET and Sliverlight stuff gets the unwitting company who uses it tied very tightly to the rest of the Microsoft products and their corrupted version of a web browser.

    Then you get to the bizarre restrictions about running older apps on newer operating systems, and newer apps on older operating systems.

    Stir in the unceremoniously dropped XP (except for "point of sale" and banking ATMs), and one can easily conclude that Microsoft is jerking all of us around.

  13. J J Carter Silver badge

    Given the shambles over divergent Windows 8.1, RT and Windows Phone APIs it seem pretty unlikely the Office and Windows teams will got their act together and collude.

    Plus the Office dev-team were happy enough to cripple their own app with the 'Ribbon' etc.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anti-trust... rigghhhtttttt

    I'm sure this has nothing to do with China's announcement of a home-grown OS that they expect everyone to use instead of Microsoft products. If you can't make a better product, just ban the competition!

  15. Anonymous Coward

    other governments and administrations...

    ...have tried to get MS to divulge all before.

    The implied application of the administrative version of Chinese water torture on MS is one thing, but the Chinese are trying to roll that water uphill in this case. I sincerely doubt they will succeed where the others failed.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So SAIC in China are going to be disappointed when they have to read the 1000+ specifications published on the Microsoft Web site:

    That would be how Windows and Office works together along with all the file format specifications.

    Oh and that is before they get to read all the API documentation.

    Maybe the software from China is just inferior ...

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