As U.S. technology companies navigate their delicate relationships with the Chinese tech market, companies, and government, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will travel to China amidst an anti-trust probe being conducted against his company.
Earlier this year, the Chinese government banned the use of Windows 8 by government agencies — a blow to Microsoft’s presence in the country. The wound was gouged further as China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) launched an antitrust investigation into Windows and Office software, alleging that Microsoft could potentially be forcing Chinese consumers to use more Microsoft products than they otherwise would. CNET notes that the SAIC raided Microsoft’s offices twice in the last several weeks, and has said it is investigating whether Microsoft’s products fall in line with the country’s rules on compatibility and document authentication.
Reuters reports that Nadella will travel to China in the coming month, although his itinerary has not been divulged, and there is no confirmation that he will meet with government officials. Still, it would be difficult for Nadella to interact with any relevant people during his trip without discussing the investigation and ramifications of what the SAIC could find.
All of these considerations are underlined by the number of hacking claims that both the U.S. and China have leveled at each other over the last couple of years. The two countries have gone back and forth, claiming that each other’s governments were responsible for cyber break-ins and downed networks. Those claims have not made the relationships between U.S. tech companies and Chinese ones any easier, and Microsoft is feeling more of the burn than others.
But other big U.S. tech companies are not standing idly by, watching Microsoft take the heat. Qualcomm is under investigation in China as well. The same antitrust law that was put into effect in 2008 allows the Chinese government to investigate foreign firms, should there be any suspicion of their monopolistic business tactics.
While Nadella’s visit may not entirely ease the tensions, it will no doubt be a move to shake hands with those officials who could determine the level of usage of Microsoft’s software in the future.