February 5, 2002

Chinese company dives into Open Source development

Author: JT Smith

- by Tina Gasperson -
China's Beijing Co-Create Open Source Software Company is working on several Unix/Linux-based commercial products, including CCOffice, CCGUI, and even CCBSD, a high-end server OS based on FreeBSD.

The Beijing Co-Create Open Source Software company was founded in April, 2001, and is making strides as a player in China's burgeoning software industry, as the nation's tech interests seek ways to evade the dominating presence of Microsoft.

"Our experts believe that Open Source is a shortcut to China's future in software development," says Yao Haizou, Co-Create principal. "The National Hi-Tech Research and Development Program of China advocated setting up the Co-Soft League," a non-profit organization designed to foster software development based on the Open Source model. The Hi-Tech program has been making recommendations for technological advancements since 1986, in the areas of biology, bioengineering, medicine, communications, high-performance computing, and others--and sees Open Source as the next logical step in those advancements.

The only problem with the Co-Soft league, says Yao, is that it is a non-profit organization and as such is not allowed to create a corporate bank account of its own. For this reason, Co-Create was established as the commercial arm of the league. "Key members of the league, plus 12 leading domestic IT companies invested to set up our company," Yao says.

The revenues from Co-Create are used to support the Co-Soft league, which enables it to run its commercial training, financial operations, and promotions. In turn, the league supports Co-Create in its development efforts. "For example, CCLinux (an embedded-Linux OS) began its research and development as a part of the Co-Soft league in 2000," says Yao. "Then, the work was transferred to our company and it has been developed to the point that it is a mature OS."

CCOffice, announced by Co-Create in a recent press release, claims to be the "first complete embedded Linux-based office suite in China." The package is supposed to include a word processor, spreadsheet program, and a PDF file reader. NewsForge received a test copy of the software and found it to be incomplete. The word processor and spreadsheet portions of the program were capable of opening and viewing MS Office documents, but did not function in any other way. Yao says that enhancements, such as the ability to export files as text documents, are forthcoming -- but it was unclear whether or not the office suite was ever intended to be more than a collection of simple file viewers.

The good news for China is that Open Source development is an avenue to tech independence for a country that has suffered from being tied to Microsoft products. Software "piracy" is common in China and is viewed as a hurdle to technological progress and a roadblock to the advancement in world markets the nation hopes to make upon its ascension to the World Trade Organization. Because of this, Chinese government is encouraging businesses to begin keeping track of software licenses and to include budget money for each copy of proprietary software -- and now that companies are feeling the impact of licensing fees, the adoption of lower-cost Open Source alternatives is popular.

Even though it has other projects, such as CCGUI, a graphical user interface, and CCBSD, a server OS based on FreeBSD, Co-Create is keeping a step ahead of the trend by also delving into embedded systems. "In China, there are five Linux distributors now," says Yao. "With the number of applications for embedded Linux expanding, we believe that segment of the market has very bright prospects."

Yao says Co-Create has strong financial support and has established a position in the Chinese market. "We also plan to sell our products outside of China, and it is possible that we will have overseas representatives soon."

Yao hints at future prospects for a Co-Create partnership with China's government. "Our applications department is working on something called the "E-Government system," which is an express office automation system," he says. "Our company will provide Linux-based solutions for Beijing's upcoming E-Government platform."


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