There is currently a rumour going around on Chinese social media that Microsoft is preparing to pull out of the country.
The rumour points to Microsoft’s terms of service, which has been recently updated, which absolves Microsoft from liability if it is unable to meet its commitments due to “compliance with any applicable laws or government orders”
The paragraph reads:
12b. For circumstances beyond Microsoft’s reasonable control (for example, labor disputes, force majeure, acts of war or terrorism, malicious sabotage, accidents, or compliance with any applicable laws or government orders) that result in Microsoft’s inability or delay in performing its obligations, Microsoft assumes no responsibility or liability for this. Microsoft will do its utmost to reduce the impact of these events and fulfill its unaffected obligations.
Following ongoing interventions by the Trump administration with the ability of US companies to serve the Chinese market the concern is not unfounded, but Microsoft has moved to squash the rumours, saying:
“Rumours circulated by some social media about Microsoft’s global update of its services agreement are not true. Our commitment to provide services to Chinese users remains firmly unchanged.”
In addition, given that the terms that raised the concern has been present as far back as 2019 and appears to be in use worldwide, its present do not indicate any new development.
What is true however is that China needs Microsoft much more than Microsoft needs China. Microsoft has only 6000 employees in China and the Chinese market is only 1.8% ($2 billion) of its revenue, while Windows is 99% of the operating system market in the country, according to Liu Wenhan, general manager of Union Tech, which develops Chinese-developed operating systems.
Given the unpredictable events of 2020, and the rising tensions between the USA and China, Microsoft may be forced into some hard choices, no matter what reassurance they offer right now.