RealTime IT News

China's Linux Plans Taking Shape

A top Chinese official is indicating the government will invest in developing a domestic software industry based around Linux, a move that could minimize Microsoft's position in the world's largest market.

"Linux is an opportunity for us to make a breakthrough in developing software," said Guo Zhongwen, vice minister at China's Ministry of Information Industry is quoted saying on its Web site www.mii.gov.cn.

While the statement is a clear commitment to Linux by the Chinese government, Guo did not provide specific details about just how much investment the government is going to put into Linux. But Guo did say "the market cannot be developed on a large scale without government support."

IDC has said it expects China's IT market to grow by 20 percent per year with software sales reaching $30.5 billion by 2005.

Back in September, China, Japan and South Korea agreed to work on creating a new computer operating system, which would provide an alternative to Microsoft's Windows OS. From all indications, the new OS would be based on open source Linux.

Along with Microsoft, IBM , Oracle , Sybase and China-based UFSoft and Kingsoft are software players operating in the Chinese market. IDC said the domestic Chinese software market was $800 million in 2002 and is expected to grow 25 percent a year.

IBM Wagers More Chips on the Table
In a related development, IBM and Kingsoft said they have formed an alliance to co-develop office software for different operating systems. Kingsoft is China's biggest domestic office automation software vendor and is said to be developing Linux-based applications. IBM and Kingsoft are both interested in driving a wedge against Microsoft in an effort to prevent Windows from becoming the dominant software vendor.

With the news that the Chinese government is pushing for development of the domestic open source software market, Microsoft is stepping up its development activities in Asia. Earlier this week, Microsoft said eighty more developers and engineers will join the company's Beijing-based research center.

Microsoft said it is working on developing Windows software for a bilingual Chinese and English "text-to-speech" technology that converts words to speech. Microsoft also has a deal with Huawei Technologies Co. to develop the "uPen" or universal pen, which allows users to write and then store the written material.

IBM's commitment to Linux is a way to align with developers worldwide, who don't want to see Microsoft gain greater market control of software markets. In September, IBM launched its IBM DB2 Linux Mobilization Program aimed at driving use for its DB2 database in China. IBM said it struck a partnership with Red Flag Software to promote Linux-based DB2 information management solutions in China. IBM and China are also operating a Linux Solution Cooperation Center.

In a separate development, earlier this week, the Internet Software Consortium said it has installed a new F-root mirror nameserver in Beijing along with APNIC, China Telecom and the Beijing Internet Exchange, run by China Netcom Corp.

"Despite being the world's most populous country, China has never enjoyed the benefits of a local root nameserver, and this development will bring dramatic improvements in speed and reliability to Internet users in Beijing, China and the surrounding region," the ISC said in a statement.