Mushrooming Internet growth

Software giant Microsoft Corp is turning its attention to an emerging market with huge potential: China. While China’s Internet labors under government restrictions, it is growing rapidly. Microsoft announced last week that it will begin to offer new systems that will let the more than one billion Chinese have access to email and downloaded movies and music through computers, televisions, and VCD players.

The “Venus” project will connect Chinese consumers and businesses to the Internet, in a partnership between China Telecom and Microsoft. The project’s success hinges on electronics manufacturers installing the necessary hardware in products sold in China.

Although net use is strictly regulated in China, traffic is soaring. There were more than 2.1 million Chinese online last year, a quadrupling of 1997’s number. More than 1.5 million new accounts will be opened this year. Most high tech analysts agree that the growth will continue in spite of any new government regulations or restrictions. And most signs point to a loosening of government policy regarding the Internet.

China has a special computer crime squad which monitors content available on the net. Service proders must register all users with the government. Within that framework, the government is encouraging the growth of the net.