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OSDL Signs First Korean Member

The Open Source Development Labs' (OSDL) presence in the Asia-Pacific region expanded with the inclusion of its first Korean organization, officials said Monday.

The Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), a government-funded, non-profit research organization centered on supporting information and communications firms in South Korea, will join OSDL's Carrier Grade and Data Center Linux working groups.

"ETRI is committed to the development of Linux technologies for business and consumers in Korea and around the world," Sung-In Jung, ETRI team leader, said in a statement.

Telecommunications in South Korea is a hot commodity, with the country ranking fourth in the world behind China, the United States and Japan in the number of DSL lines installed, according to a March report by telecommunications research firm Point Topic.

According to a recent report by research firm IDC, the Asia-Pacific region is the fastest-growing region for Linux PC shipments and redeployments. It has edged out the Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) and American regions and will continue to do so through 2008.

The firm also reports Linux software revenue in the Asian market outside Japan to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 82.5 percent between 2004 and 2008.

Asia is a key market for the adoption of the Linux platform. In an interview with internetnews.com last year, OSDL's director in Asia, Hirano Masanobu, said there is tremendous interest in Linux, especially in the server space, as companies migrate from Unix to Linux.

Creating industry support for Linux in the Asia-Pacific region relies on tailoring your program around the way business is conducted in the various countries, according to Bill Weinberg, OSDL open source architecture specialist. So, what may work in China and Japan may not necessarily be the best method in Korea.

According to Weinberg, new technology adoption in Korea falls outside the scope used by its two other regional peers; both China and Japan involve more bottom-up development, with the government or business leaders providing some oversight in implementing the technology in their respective countries, while Korea favors a more top-down approach.

"The Korean market overall is different in some interesting ways in that it's very vertically consolidated in that you have some 80 percent of all industry consolidated behind two giant branded companies, LG and Samsung, with the rest of the market fragmented by smaller players," he said. "That means if you really want return on investment working with Korean companies, you obviously know where to start."

The government of South Korea is a strong influencer also, and has been taking efforts to include Linux into its IT agenda, according to OSDL officials. Last year, the Korea IT Industry Promotion Agency announced it would begin switching governmental projects onto Linux and other open source projects.

Later that year, the government officials in Korea joined with their counterparts in Japan and China to form the Open Source Software Promotion Forum, to cooperate on the promotion of Linux-based software and hardware. OSDL officials said the ETRI is actively developing and promoting Linux in the Korean market.

Weinberg said the organization hopes to include other South Korean-based companies like LG and Samsung into the OSDL fold in the future.