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Microsoft Office gets China boost

The software giant signs a deal with the country's main educational software firm to promote Office in schools and avert pressure from the open-source

A Chinese software company announced on Wednesday that it has signed an agreement with Microsoft to help popularize the Office productivity package in Chinese schools.

Tengtu International said its Beijing subsidiary, the largest supplier of educational software for China's elementary and secondary schools, will develop an "Education Resource Kit for Office" to integrate the company's educational software and services with Microsoft's Office 2003.

Tengtu provides education software and distance-learning services to more than 35,000 Chinese schools, with 17.5 million students. The company was selected by the country's Ministry of Education to run the main education portal and distance-learning network for the national school system.

China has loomed as a potentially significant but troublesome market for Microsoft in recent years. The country has expressed an official preference for open-source software and required the software giant to reveal parts of its source code.

But Microsoft has also worked with the Chinese government to promote software development and curb piracy.

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Office is one of Microsoft's most significant profit centers, but the franchise has come under increasing pressure from the free, open-source package, especially in developing nations.