May 20, 2002

Pre-installing Linux in Russia is a growing business model

Author: JT Smith

by Bruce Tober -
Microsoft shooting itself in the foot in 2001 was nothing unusual. In
Russia they did it by cracking down on pervasive software
piracy. Throughout Russia one could purchase just about any piece of
software he or she wanted (everything from the latest Win operating systems to
the latest Win software packages for example) on the black market for a
couple of bucks. Microsoft's anti-piracy
move (not to mention a new Russian law against software piracy) has
resulted in a shift toward towards GNU/Linux. And nowhere is that truer,
perhaps, than amongst the computer manufacturers.
As Svetlana Semavina, PR manager for ASP Linux, says, "There was one another factor which
pulled companies to Linux. In 2001 Microsoft corp. began to implement
anti-piracy politics in Russia. And that is a really important reason
for the migration to Linux for small PC assemblers for which the cost of
Windows licenses is prohibitively expensive. And for whom the low cost
of PC for end users is very important."

Aleksey Smirnov, director of ALTGNU/L
, agrees. "Yes, [the trend towards PC assemblers pre-installing
Linux is increasing]. And for me it is important that many OEM partners
are interested in Linux because they find it a good solution for users,
not only because it is the cheapest way to solve legal problems. There
is law, and there is MS cracking down (in fact not very strong). But it
is clear to everyone here that it is impossible to provide all computers
in use with legal software - it is economically impossible."

He notes that due to these factors, "State structures recently began to
buy legal copies of OS and very seldom software. They use mostly pirated
software. Sometimes they buy legal OS, less often they buy legal
software. In fact it is real problem also for Linux vendors, because
almost everybody use MS for free. Private firms buy legal software for
some of their computers. It is usual practice when they buy one legal
copy and install it on many computers."

But, he says, the purchase of legal, licensed software is increasing,
"and it is expected that using pirated software will become too

ASPlinux is pre-installed, Semavina says, by such companies as Formoza, Bely Veter, Inel, Desten Computers, Veles-Data, R-
, AMI (Ukraine), "and a
wide range small firms (most of them are dealers of the large companies
like Formoza or Bely Veter)."

She added that of those Russian PC Vendors who do pre-install Linux
(which, she said, is most of them) Red Hat is apparently their
distribution of choice. And, she said, "there are a number of small PC
assemblers which pre-install regular versions of RedHat, Mandrake, or even ASPLinux rather than the OEM
versions (i.e. without any CDs or documentation). These distros are
preferred in such cases as the most user-friendly OSes with the best
Russian localization.

Smirnov notes that there are three categories of machine manufacturers using
ALT Linux. They are:

Local assemblers, like Genius. "During last year we provided MicroStar motherboards imported by Impex NEO Group with special edition ALT Linux MSI
. This allows local assemblers to pre-install ALT Linux on
the computers with MSI motherboards. ALT Linux MSI Edition is specially
tested with MSI motherboards."

Russian Intel-based machines that are pre-loaded with ALT Linux's
"Intranet Server Appliance for Small and Medium Business."

And, he noted, ALT Linux is also used by OEMs in the Ukraine.

"We started the Intel project three years ago, Smirnov explains. "The
small local assemblers started using ALT Linux for pre-installation two
years ago, and the MSI project was started a year ago. Now rather big
assembling firms are interested."

The use of pre-loaded ASPLinux began a year ago. "In May, 2001",
Semavina says, "we produced ASPLinux 7.1. It was the first release
which we began to sell. At that time we began to offer the biggest PC
manufacturers in Russia to pre-install ASPLinux. Many of them had
already thought about doing so, but their lack of experience in Linux
stopped them. Most of them do not install ASPLinux on all PCs, but have
some series of PCs which are sold only with ASPLinux pre-installed."

She adds that the company provides its OEM-partners with "all services
they need and carry out marketing actions in this direction."

The benefit of pre-installing Linux, Smirnov explains, "is that the
assemblers get cheap, legal OS and user software to preinstall. He has
less software problems, and it works faster. Benefits to the end user?
Well, now it is possible to build almost any solution with GNU/Linux.
Linux distribution is a collection of various solutions based on GNU
software. End user gets system, which is cheaper, faster, stable and

To which Semavina adds, "Linux is rather inexpensive. This factor is
very important for today Russian market: one who is buying PC for using
at home usually prefers inexpensive soft. And for the OEMs, In addition
ASPLinux and OEM-partners carry out joint marketing actions, etc"


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