Microsoft has sold the MSN China web portal to XiChuang Technology for an undisclosed amount, the company announced this week. The company had originally planned to shutter the service, the Redmond, Wash., software maker announced earlier this year.
Instead, the company has sold MSN China to XiChuang, whose chief executive, Anderson Liu, formerly served as general manager of Microsoft Online in China. In an Aug 29 announcement, the companies pledged to work on a smooth transition of MSN China's search advertising business to XiChuang.
"Microsoft is deeply committed to China, offering a range of products including Windows 10, cloud services, and hosting the largest research and development center outside of the U.S.," a Microsoft spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal in a May 9 report.
In March 2014, the company partnered with China's 21Vianet Group, a carrier-neutral Internet Data Center services provider, to bring its Azure cloud computing platform to the country. "Cloud computing is a big part of the future for China, and we are thrilled to play a role in bringing this future to our customers," Takeshi Numoto, a corporate vice president at Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise, said at the time.
Last year, during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Microsoft's headquarters, Microsoft announced that Baidu.com would serve as the default home page and search experience for its Edge web browser in Windows 10 in China. Baidu, which boasts more than 600 million users, also pledged to deliver Universal Windows search, maps, video and cloud apps for Windows 10. The company also forged alliances with Unisplendour and 21Vianet on hybrid-cloud services for the region and China Electronics Technology Group to deliver Windows 10 to Chinese government and state-owned enterprises.
China and its 1.3 billion people represent an important market for Microsoft, and practically all large technology companies with global aspirations. Sometimes those aspirations can land a company in hot water.
In the summer of 2014, Microsoft's offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu, China were raided by China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) acting on allegations of anti-competitive behavior. The SAIC investigation stemmed from complaints filed on June 2013 regarding Windows and Office compatibility issues and other unspecified problems.
"We aim to build products that deliver the features, security and reliability customers expect, and we will address any concerns the government may have," a Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK at the time. Days later, the SAIC paid another round of visits, this time to sites in Beijing, Liaoning, Fujian and Hubei, along with the Dalian offices of Microsoft partner Accenture, to which the software giant outsourced financial operations.
Microsoft isn't the only big-name IT company to have a run-in with the Chinese government.
In June, Apple was ordered to halt sales of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in Beijing by Chinese officials. Beijing's intellectual property regulator determined that the devices infringed on Chinese smartphone design patents. In April, roughly six months after they opened, the iBooks Store and iTunes Movies marketplace were abruptly shuttered by Chinese government regulators after Apple had already officially received permission to launch the services.