In a major blow to Microsoft, China has mysteriously announced it will exclude Windows 8 from newly-procured government computers.
In a brief statement on the Central Government Procurement Centre's website about a particular class of energy-saving products, the agency noted that new government computers are forbidden from having Windows 8 installed.
The motivations for the ban are somewhat mysterious, with no explanation for why Windows 8 has been excluded from public sector machines.
However, China's official news bureau Xinhua claims the move is the Chinese government's response to Microsoft's recent end to support and security updates for Windows XP, which still runs most government computers.
According to Xinhua, the government has "moved to avoid the awkwardness of being confronted with a similar situation again in future if it continues to purchase computers with [a] foreign OS".
While Microsoft has stopped providing updates to the general public for Windows XP, it is offering extended support to enterprise customers, such as the Netherlands government and the UK government, which have signed multi-million dollar contracts with Microsoft to provide support for remaining XP computers.
As Reuters notes, it's not clear how the ban on Windows 8 is related to the use of energy-savings products.
Xinhua also notes the Chinese government's ambitions to develop and use its own Linux-based OS, similar to its efforts launch a homegrown mobile OS.
China launched the Linux-based China Operating System (COS) for smartphones in January. However, the UI quickly drew comparisons to HTC's Android Sense interface. Other locally made OSes include Ubuntu-based Kylin and StartOS, but Xinhua notes these haven't gained much traction with local buyers yet.
Qi Xiangdong, president of Chinese antivirus and software vendor Qihoo 360, told Xinhua the first step to supporting a homegrown OS is to promote the use of Chinese-designed OS among official users, while civilians would be free to choose their OS.
According to the latest figures from Net Market Share, Windows XP machines account for more than 37 percent of desktops in use in China.
Update at 12:50pm ET: In a statement to ZDNet Microsoft said it was "surprised" by the decision to exclude Windows 8 from bidding but that it would continue to provide Windows 7 to agencies.
"This morning, the China Central Government Procurement Center posted a notification titled 'Bidding Process for Government Purchasing Energy-efficient IT Products.' The notification indicates that the Windows 8 operating system is excluded in the bidding," the company said in a statement.
"We were surprised to learn about the reference to Windows 8 in this notice. Microsoft has been working proactively with the Central Government Procurement Center and other government agencies through the evaluation process to ensure that our products and services meet all government procurement requirements. We have been and will continue to provide Windows 7 to government customers. At the same time, we are working on the Window 8 evaluation with relevant government agencies."