August 13, 2004

New OSDL office gives Linux face time in China

Author: Jay Lyman

Few doubt the strength, potential and sheer size of the Chinese market for Linux and other open source software, yet the Asian nation that is promoting Linux at the institutional level and just beginning to rise in terms of personal computing remains elusive to much of the rest of the business world.

In response, the Open Source Development
opened its Beijing office this week, promising its U.S. member
companies including IBM, Intel, HP, and Novell a stronger link to Chinese
companies and efforts. OSDL -- which indicated the Beijing office will be
staffed with local personnel who will work with the labs on technical,
business and marketing issues -- is also hoping to help China feel more
comfortable in its seat at the Linux table.

Chris Zhao, President of Chinese software giant Red Flag, said in email
to NewsForge that the OSDL office in Beijing will mean "face-to-face
connection and communication with the Linux world and supporting
organizations and companies."

"This will bring a far-reaching impact in the development of Linux and
Linux-based applications," said Zhao, whose company contributes to Asianux
for enterprise customers and a Linux desktop version set for an update to
version 4.1 before the end of the year.

At the same time the new OSDL Beijing office was added to existing
offices in Portland suburb Beaverton, Oreg. and Japan, Red Flag was among a
number of Chinese companies and organizations that formed the China Open
Source Software Promotion Alliance. The group is being formed to promote
Linux and open source development and Chinese contribution and use.

Zhao said while a lack of highly experienced engineers remains a
challenge in China, the nation is still waiting for "the common technology
standard and the readiness of a mission critical applications market."

For Red Flag, Zhao said he hopes OSDL can to the same thing the
organization that strives to be "the recognized center of gravity for Linux"
has done for U.S., European and Japanese companies.

"OSDL has been making good contributions to the international world,"
Zhao said. "Now it [will] greatly stimulate the utilization of Linux both in
the enterprise market and in the domestic Linux communities [of China].
Although we have achieved great success in the desktop market, Red Flag has
been regarding Linux on the server side as the most significant R&D field
and devotes much resources in this area."

As for what a company such as Red Flag brings to OSDL, Zhao said the
Chinese software leader -- which recently announced its first commercial
version of Linux compiled with Intel compiler -- will participate in the
development of OSDL projects and contribute to both the domestic Chinese and
worldwide Linux communities.

"Red Flag will provide localized support and influence to this
organization and push the popularity of research and technology of OSDL,"
Zhao said.

OSDL Chief Executive Officer Stuart Cohen, who had already indicated the
Chinese office would open earlier this year, has said the Chinese Linux market
is the biggest or will be the biggest in the world. OSDL has already been
working with companies and the government of China, which according to
Chinese research firm CCID Consulting will see its Linux server software
market grow at a compound annual rate of nearly 50 percent during the next
five years. OSDL said it works closely with the Chinese Ministry of
Information Industry (MII), Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) and
already includes several Chinese members including the Beijing Co-Create
Open Source Software Company and Beijing Software Testing Center.

"What Chinese companies are telling us or what they look to us for is to
normalize their relationships with partners in other parts of the world,"
OSDL spokesperson Bill Weinberg said, adding OSDL will do the same for China
as it has done for Europe, Japan and the U.S. "We're in a position to
negotiate for the actual implementation of Linux."

Weinberg said the list of challenges for China is topped by the need for
internationalization and localization, licensing and licensing practices,
and fears that China will fork Linux or create an Asian standard, something
MII director Ding Wenwu reportedly denied.

"Some of it is just normalization," Weinberg said. "That notion of
bridging is very key."

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