China Says Yes to Linux, No to Open-Source Middleware

Though Linux is rising in popularity in China, the majority of enterprises still prefer commercial software over open-source middleware.

Although Linux is catching on rapidly in China, dont expect to see open-source application software taking off in the country any time soon, said an analyst familiar with the Chinese IT market.

Huang Yong, chief executive at CCID Consulting Co. Ltd., a Beijing-based market research and consulting firm, said that despite the "profound impact" Linux is having in China, Chinese enterprises are not likely to adopt open-source middleware as the IT industry continues to mature.

In addition to his views on open source in China, Huang said he sees China eventually taking a leadership position in the IT market, and discussed a variety of issues including Chinas contribution to the worldwide IT industry, the key to doing business in China and the indigenous software market.

"At present, no Chinese software company has open-sourced code, particularly in application software," Huang said. Indeed, the quality of open-source application software "is suspected by consumers," Huang said.

"The Chinese software market is now worth some 6.5 billion U.S. dollars, which is still small," Huang said. "Even the largest [ISV UFIDA Software Co. Ltd.] only does 100 million U.S. dollars in revenue in one year.

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"So the base of software companies sustainable development will be threatened if source code is opened, and the service model that open-source enterprises rely on is not accepted by Chinese IT consumers. The situation for open-source middleware and application software is not optimistic in China."

In an interview last month in Beijing, Zhongyuan Zheng, vice president of Red Flag Software Co. Ltd., based in Beijing, said: "Until now, the government has chosen Linux for their IT infrastructure. I dont think there are many cases for using open-source middleware in mission-critical areas. In mission-critical areas, commercial software has the biggest market share in China."

Moreover, Zheng said the Chinese government is promoting the use of desktop Linux, which his company produces.

"Chinas government promotes and supports desktop Linux very strongly," he said. "So they hope that ... Well, as you know, piracy in China has been very significant. So the government hopes that Linux—legal software such as Linux—can replace all this piracy."

Huang said he believes China can leverage Linux to build its own independent operating system software, and that leveraging open-source code can help foster local software companies and develop Chinas software industry.

Sicheng Yu, chief technology officer of BEA China, said, "I am not sure about the situation in the U.S., but in China we dont see much of a threat from open-source software in production systems.

"We are seeing great interest in Linux. But when you move to the production side the situation is quite different than in the U.S. and Europe because the open-source application servers have not established their products for running mission-critical systems here. Another reason is labor costs in China is quite low."

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