"Bill Gates has never met Chen Yongguang, but the Microsoft
Corp. founder's future may be more dependent on the Chinese
information-technology manager--and thousands like him--than he'd
like. Chen is in charge of IT for the city of Xiaolan, in China's
Guangdong province, and recently has become a convert to Linux, the
free alternative to Microsoft's flagship Windows computer operating
system. Chen recently turned to the software to run the Xiaolan
government's 18 servers. It's cheaper than Windows, though saving
money 'is not a big consideration,' he insists. More important,
Chen says, is that Linux is less vulnerable to viruses and other
rogue programs. He's also pleased that he can get the source code
for the software, which allows him to adapt it more easily to his
needs. 'Windows is not open,' he says. 'You can't change it.'
"Discontent with Windows--and enthusiasm for Linux--are
increasingly common in Asia these days. Although Microsoft still
rules the desktop and racks up healthy server operating-system
sales, open-source software is winning fans across the region.
Government officials see Linux as a means of cutting costs--systems
using it run as much as 70% cheaper than Windows--and priming their
local software industries. China, Japan, and South Korea, for
instance, are working to develop an operating system more attuned
to their character-based languages that will likely be modeled
after Linux. And policymakers in other countries, especially
Thailand and India, are backing Linux development. 'Promotion of
Linux is very important,' says Li Wuqiang, a deputy director at
China's Science & Technology Ministry. 'Government should give
it a hard push...'"
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