RealTime IT News

Microsoft, HP Court Developers in Beijing

Hoping to cash in on China's insatiable thirst for software, Microsoft and HP signed independent deals this week to open new enterprise development labs in Beijing.

Signed within a few hours of each other, the software vendors now have memos of understanding (MOU) with China's Ministry of Information Industry (MII) as part of the country's National Software and Integrated Circuits Public Service Platform.

HP chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina was on hand to help sign the three-year, USD$23 million enterprise Linux lab. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based systems vendor will also provide software and hardware technical support and training.

The goal, according to HP, is to provide an open platform and comprehensive support for R&D, testing and certification to Chinese companies. HP said analyst figures point to an annual 40 percent growth rate in China as a big motivation for opening the center.

"[This] demonstrates the government's new emphasis on providing a healthy environment for enterprises' development," MII Vice Minister Gou Zhong-wen said in a statement. "Open-source software, including Linux, offers a new direction in software development."

Likewise, Gou was impressed with the improved relationship between China and Microsoft. Under the new memo of understanding signed Wednesday, the Redmond, Wash.-based software vendor said it will spend two years and USD$9.63 million to build Windows. NET-based technology labs in Beijing.

The goal, according to Microsoft, is to serve a large number of small and medium-sized Chinese software companies and the computer users in China.

Microsoft said it will work with both the Chinese and international IT companies to develop and test embedded software as well as local applications based on Microsoft operating systems and demonstrate local solutions based on Windows and .NET technologies.

MII officials said Microsoft and HP are just the beginning of a series of partnerships China expects to enter with international IT companies since it entered the World Trade Organization in November 2001.

In spite of the deals, China remains a hotbed of IT activity and Windows and Linux remain the two most popular operating systems used by corporations and home users.

Government statistics released in January show the country's Internet user base at 79.5 million putting China behind only the U.S. in the number of Web surfers.

China had 79.5 million Web surfers at the end of 2003, a report by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) out of Beijing. The number catapults the country ahead of fellow Asia-Pacific region country Japan, which has 56 million Internet users but below first-ranked U.S., which has 165.75 million Internet users, according to the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) World Factbook.

According to the bi-annual Statistical Survey Report, China added 20.4 million new users in 2003, a 34.5 percent increase over 2002. It's an amazing six-month leap; its previous report, the 12th Statistical Survey Report, showed 68 million Internet users. Officials determine an Internet user as someone who accesses the Internet one hour or more a week.

While 79.5 million would be a significant number in most countries, it's a mere six percent of China's total population of 1.28 billion. In the U.S., Web surfers make up 57 percent of the total population of 290.34 million.