Windows 10 for China government
Microsoft modifies Windows 10 software for use by Chinese government Reuters/Mike Segar

Microsoft has completed the development of a customised version of the Windows 10 operating system for the Chinese government.

The modified version for China was developed in collaboration with the state-owned high-tech enterprise China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC).

Microsoft told the Wall Street Journal that it was "pleased with the progress" in modifying the Windows 10.

The customised version of Windows 10 is only available for government employees.

A Microsoft spokesperson said the customised Windows software will only be included in official procurement lists after it is reviewed by the Chinese government.

Xiong Qunli, chairman of CETC said the company expects the government to give the go ahead to the software. "We're currently beginning the sales process," Qunli said. The software has already been tested at three pilot sites, people familiar with the matter told WSJ.

In December 2015, the company announced a joint venture with CETC to license, deploy, manage and optmise Windows 10 for China's government agencies and certain state-owned enterprises.

Adam Segal, director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations said there is little doubt the Chinese government would welcome backdoor access to Windows. A Chinese cybersecurity law passed in November 2016 requires tech companies to provide "technical support" to the government, which might demand backdoor access to software like Windows, he added.

In the past, Microsoft has opposed the provision of any backdoor access to government both in the US and abroad. In April 2016, it sued the US Justice Department, opposing law-enforcement efforts to gain access to user data. It supported Apple's battle to prevent US investigators from forcing the company to unlock an iPhone belonging to a person linked to the San Bernardino attack.

Other tech companies such as Qualcomm and Intel have also struck similar partnerships with China. On Sunday (19 March), IBM announced a joint venture with Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group to provide cloud-computing services.