Microsoft CEO Nadella visits China to discuss anti-trust investigation

Kellogg Brengel

After spending time in India, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is travelling to China this week. A Microsoft spokesperson stated that while in China, Nadella will be “attending a Microsoft Developer day and a Tsinghua Management School event.” But a recent report by Reuters, citing an unnamed source, says that Nadella is also expected to meet with Chinese officials to discuss the state’s ongoing anti-trust investigation against the Redmond, Washington-based technology company.

China’s anti-trust investigation has been going on for nearly three years. The investigation became very public when Microsoft offices in China were raided by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) in early August of 2014. Microsoft’s partners in China were also raided. Subsequently, China formally opened an anti-trust investigation into Microsoft’s bundling practices, such as including Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player in the Windows operating system.

The charges are reportedly quite similar to both the EU and US anti-trust cases of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, but now China is taking these issues with the software giant as they have been enforcing their 2008 anti-monopoly law. Reuters also notes that Microsoft is one of several foreign firms to be investigated recently under the 2008 law, which “some critics say is being used to unfairly target overseas businesses.”

Nadella’s trip to Beijing comes months after the most recent news in the anti-trust case. In January, the SAIC requested Microsoft to further explain some information the state had obtained during their anti-trust probes.

Nadella also travelled to China in 2014 following the raids on Microsoft offices in the hopes of putting an end to the anti-trust investigation. But the Chinese government clearly feels the issue is anything but resolved. There is no word on what shape the anti-trust probe has taken now, but in the past it was reported it encompassed everything from bundling practices of Microsoft software with Windows to software incompatibility issues.

It has also been reported recently in the Chinese press that many Chinese Windows users are increasingly upset over the most recent aggressiveness of Microsoft’s promotion of its free Windows 10 upgrade. Hopefully, Nadella’s trip bears fruit and this case can be resolved with at least some transparency by the Chinese government of what all the raids and probes were about. But I would not get your hopes up given the recent consolidation of President Xi-Ping’s power and other technology giants such as Apple seeing the closure of their services in the China.