Microsoft announces extended Windows XP support in China -- or has it?

Reports this morning that Microsoft will support Windows XP in China after April 8 have been disputed by Microsoft

Early this morning, Michael Kan reported from Beijing that Windows XP will continue receiving security support in China after the April 8 cutoff date. Kan's analysis stemmed from an official Microsoft post, in Chinese, on Sina Weibo, the Chinese analog to both Facebook and Twitter. That's tremendous news for Windows XP users everywhere -- especially for those using Chinese-language versions of Windows XP.

Hours later, Larry Seltzer at ZDNet posted a story, "Microsoft denies extending Windows XP support for China," in which he says:

On Monday, Microsoft China made statements on a Chinese social network that have been misinterpreted in reports in the West. Microsoft in Redmond told ZDNet that they are not extending support for Windows XP in China.

Since Windows XP usage has been increasing worldwide over the past two months -- it's now up to about one-third of all Windows computers measured by Net Applications -- the briefly-welcomed news from Beijing held out some hope for Microsoft's hundreds of millions of XP customers.

I asked Kan about Microsoft's apparent (and welcome!) change of heart. He provided me with this translation of the official Microsoft announcement:

We thank all the people who have been paying attention to Microsoft XP's retirement. In response to everyone's questions, we have worked out four points we would like to explain:

Firstly, already installed PC's with XP can still be used after April 8.

Secondly, Microsoft China has adopted some special measures and is partnering with Tencent and leading domestic Internet security and virus prevention vendors to offer exclusive secure protection for Windows XP users in China, before they decide to eventually upgrade to the new generation of operating systems.

Thirdly, data shows that 70 percent of China's XP users in the last 13 years have not chosen to use Microsoft's periodic security service updates. For most of the users, XP's retirement will have a limited impact. In spite of this, Microsoft and several domestic vendors will soon release a series of security measures, and offer continued protection to these users, before they eventually decide to upgrade to a new OS.

Fourthly, this 13-year-old product already cannot satisfy the demands of the Internet age, and is not enough to address the endless number and ever changing security threats. The level of security of the new generation of operating system, under today's Internet environment, has been improved significantly.

We thank everyone for always loving XP and never abandoning it. Its always hard to say goodbye, but after a long journey one must eventually bid adieu. Before people decide to upgrade to the new generation of operating system, we, Tencent and the domestic leading Internet security vendors, will continue never letting you go, and take care of you.

Seltzer is working with a different translation of the "secondly" paragraph, as provided by Microsoft:

Microsoft China has taken special actions to closely work with leading Chinese internet security and anti-virus companies including Tencent for them to provide security protection for Chinese Windows XP users before they upgrade to modern operating system.

That's some difference. In the original post, a native Chinese speaker would no doubt be inclined to believe that Microsoft was committing to "offer exclusive secure protection" beyond the April 8 cut-off date. In the Microsoft-supplied translation, a native English speaker would come to the conclusion that Microsoft's going to help Tencent continue to support its product -- which, in this case, includes antivirus and antimalware software.

As Seltzer notes, that kind of help is no different from what will be happening in other countries. In particular, all of the major AV vendors in the United States will continue to provide XP updates, and they're all no doubt relying on Microsoft for some help. None of them are going to try to patch XP binaries.

Microsoft will continue to make patches for XP, but they'll only be available to Software Assurance licensees at a steep price -- $200 to $400 additional per year per machine, depending on which source you believe. Aside from updates to the Microsoft Security Essentials signature files, which will continue until July 2015, Microsoft's 300 to 400 million XP customers -- including, admittedly, a whole lotta pirates -- are getting tossed to the zero-day dogs.

I can't say I've ever seen a company so hell-bent on cutting off its nose to spite its face.

This story, "Microsoft announces extended Windows XP support in China -- or has it?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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