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Shanghai: School's out for Microsoft Office

A China-made office suite will replace Microsoft Office in Shanghai schools, after a demand from the software giant for license fees.

A China-made office suite will replace Microsoft Office in Shanghai schools, after a reported raid on schools by antipiracy officials and a demand from the software company for license fees.

Chinese software company Kingsoft's WPS Office 2003 will replace the U.S. software giant's office applications in public schools in Shanghai, China, on Sept. 1, according to education officials in the city.

The decision comes just after a similar announcement from China's governing body that states that all civil service PCs will gradually move to running WPS Office and other domestic-made software.

The Shanghai Education Research Center signed a contract with Kingsoft a week ago to buy the company's WPS Office 2003 software. The center acquires software for public schools in the city and has notified each school of the change, according to news Web site

Most schools have removed Microsoft Office programs to make way for the Chinese-developed software, which costs half the price of Office XP. A new computer textbook that contains little content about Microsoft Office will also be used from next month onward.

Xia Ji, a marketing manager in Kingsoft's WPS business unit, said the company will sell its software at highly discounted prices to schools, according to the report.

Beijing-based Kingsoft has scheduled special activities for this project, such as launching online examinations through the schools' local area network. The company plans to start selling WPS Office 2003 on Aug. 31 at a retail price of $156, compared with Microsoft Office XP's price of $465.

The move to snub Microsoft comes after the software giant asked the Shanghai Education Commission to buy licenses for the office suite on every school computer. Antipiracy officials earlier raided several schools in the city for using pirated versions of the software, according to the report.

Though WPS has the Chinese government's backing, it is unlikely to fully replace Microsoft Office for civil service use in the near future, Dorothy Yang, research director for software and services at IDC China, said in a report. Foreign vendors are also not likely to be fully excluded from government contracts.

Analysts and other sources have said transition to WPS and other local software will be gradual, as too many systems in the Chinese government now depend on Microsoft Windows and Office.

CNETAsia staff reported from Singapore.