March 1, 2004

China: Linux ally, Microsoft foe

For years, China has been trying to end Microsoft Corp.'s monopoly on its computers. It has tried to develop its own operating system. It
has appealed to the patriotism of consumers. Now, it is turning to the law.

Officials say a new law will be announced by this summer requiring a minimum percentage of software purchased by the government be produced in China.
That's crucial in a country where the government accounts for 25 percent of the $30 billion software market.

Such a law could do to Microsoft what governments in the United States and Europe so far have been unable to do: put the software giant in its place,
curtailing its ability to use its massive market share to squelch Linux and other small rivals.

No one is saying what that minimum will be -- some say it might be as high as 70 percent -- but one thing is certain: Linux will be the beneficiary.

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