Chinese Microsoft Employees Forced to Use iPhones or Else

A large Microsoft office building with Chinese letters next to the main logo, with parts of trees surrounding the frame of the image
Credit: Bloomberg

A large Microsoft office building with Chinese letters next to the main logo, with parts of trees surrounding the frame of the image
Credit: Bloomberg

The age-old debate between iPhone and Android has long pitted Apple’s smartphones against the open-source Android platform found in hundreds of handsets. However, this debate might soon end in Microsoft’s offices in China, as the American company is banning Android smartphones for its Chinese employees.

While the best apps for iPhone and best apps for Android remain remarkably similar in the West, the situation in China is quite different. There is no Google Play service in China, leading local smartphone manufacturers like Huawei and Xiaomi to create their own marketplaces instead.

As a result, many familiar apps are missing from these Chinese marketplaces. According to Bloomberg, Microsoft is now requiring employees in its China offices to switch to iPhones to use the Microsoft Authenticator and Identity Pass apps for better security.

Microsoft is keen to strengthen security after various hacks across the years, including a Russia-linked hack earlier this year that affected plenty of US government agencies such as the State Department.

Employees currently using Android smartphones, including popular models like Xiaomi handsets, will receive a one-time purchase of an iPhone 15, with Apple's smartphones available in multiple hubs across China. This policy even includes Hong Kong, where Google Play services are available, effectively giving Hong Kong employees a free iPhone.

This marks an interesting policy shift, one that contrasts with the rest of China’s government-backed companies. Just last year, many Chinese agencies and firms were ordered to stop using foreign devices in the workplace, essentially banning iPhones in favor of local handsets. This trend might extend to the West, as Elon Musk has threatened to ban iPhones due to Apple’s deal with OpenAI for ChatGPT-4.0 and Apple Intelligence.

Microsoft has not publicly announced the Android smartphone ban in China and has yet to respond to Bloomberg's inquiries about the policy change. Meanwhile, Apple is currently facing an antitrust lawsuit in the US for reportedly engaging in anticompetitive behavior.

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