July 29, 2002

Chinese developer survey: Positive about Linux, but positive about a lot of technology

-By Grant Gross -

Chinese developers seem to like Linux, according to a recent survey by Evans Data Corp., but they seem to like most any technology that's available.
Part of the Evans Data Corp. Chinese Developer Survey, released this month, focused on the 723 respondents' views of Linux, and results of this first Evans survey of mainland China developers suggest that they're more excited about Linux than their North American counterparts. For example, two-thirds of the Chinese developers say they expect to develop Linux applications within the next year, compared to 40% of North American developers recently surveyed.

But Evans analyst Esther Schindler says the Chinese developers responded positively to almost all the technologies they were asked about -- with majorities saying they were planning to evaluate almost every technology put before them. The survey also asked about Web services, Java development, general Internet development and developer tools.

One explanation of that across-the-board positive mentality, Schindler says, is that the average respondent to the Chinese survey had four years of developing experience, while the average North American in the last survey had 16 years.

"I tend to that's influencing a lot of attitudes, decisions and so forth," Schindler says of the experience gap. "With four years of experience, you don't know enough to say, 'I've lived through all those technologies that were going to change the world and didn't.' You also still have enthusiasm for everything that comes around."

Most Chinese developers are still targeting Windows 95 or 98 and using those as their main host operating systems. Chinese developers are also using older languages such as C++ and Delphi -- 42% are still using Delphi, Schindler says.

Schindler's other guess about those positive answers across the board about newer technology may be part of a cultural phenomenon, where the Chinese respondents just didn't want to say no to anything. "Or maybe it's like when you finally decided you're going to sell your ancient Windows 95/98 car, and you're looking around for alternatives, you look at every car that's in the lot. So maybe they're really ready to evaluate everything."

The survey results may suggest that now is the time for overseas companies to pitch technologies such as Linux to Chinese developers. "It may be that we're watching a turning point," Schindler says. "It may be that there's nobody that's emotionally entrenched -- they're using plenty of Windows but they're using a lot of older versions and older languages. Either that means they're looking for something new, or they're wishing that all those cars in the parking lot were theirs."

Still, the survey revealed very positive attitudes about Linux in mainland China. Just over 4% say they use Linux as their primary development OS on the desktop, while just under 10% say they plan to use Linux as their primary desktop OS in the next year. Another 27% say they're currently working on Linux applications, and 62% say they use Open Source software modules in their current work.

More than 30% of the Chinese developers say their companies are using Linux as a departmental server, and another 28% for Web servers. Twenty-six percent say their companies are using Linux for enterprise servers and 24% as a developmental OS. This seems to counter a popular North American view that Linux is only for Web servers, Schindler says. Only 33% of the Chinese respondents say their companies aren't using Linux at all.

Just under 77% of Chinese developers say they "absolutely" or "probably" are confident in using Linux for mission-critical applications, while 58% of North American developers give the same answers. "While North Americans are confident about Linux, these guys are practically rooting for it," Schindler says.

Even Chinese developers still using Windows give Linux high confidence scores, with more than 70% of Windows developers saying they have strong confidence in Linux. "If nothing else, this may indicate there's not quite the divisiveness there can be in North America, which can be a good thing," Schindler says. "It'd be nice to be talking about bits and bytes and not who's scum-sucking."

A second Evans Data survey of Chinese developers is planned for this winter.


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