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BusinessWeek: Asia Loves Linux--And Microsoft Scrambles

Jan 06, 2004, 20:00 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bruce Einhorn)

"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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