Posted on: Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Asian nations turn attention to Linux
By Yuri Kageyama
|Lindows, a Linux-based operating system for PCs, was on display at an expo in Japan. China, South Korea and Japan are increasing research into a non-Windows-based open-source operating system.
Japan has earmarked $8.6 million for the project and will host a meeting in November for the three governments to boost research in Linux, including flavors that better handle Asian languages.
Like Germany, France and other European countries, Japan, South Korea and China long have been wary of leaving too many government computers and networks dependent on Windows. Many experts view Windows as too prone to computer viruses and hacking.
In China, programmers developed a homegrown Linux version called Red Flag Linux a few years ago. That software has been touted by Beijing as a secure alternative to Windows.
But the latest multi-government attempt to promote Linux is unprecedented in its scope, although some remain skeptical about its prospects.
"Linux is about to become an explosive hit in Japan," said Hajime Watanabe, chief executive of Tokyo-based Linux supplier Turbolinux Inc. "The Chinese are determined to say goodbye to Mr. Bill Gates. The South Korean government is thinking seriously about it. And the move is starting to take off in Japan."
Microsoft spokesman Mark Martin said the company shares the Asian governments' desire for strong technology industries.
But the Redmond, Wash.-based company said "consumers and market forces, not government preferences should determine software selection and development."
The company said it has been offering governments access to its secret Windows code to alleviate their security concerns.
"We are eager to address any government concerns about Microsoft products," he said in an e-mail. "Microsoft will continue to work hard to earn government trust and business and build on the strong relationships we hold today."
Microsoft has identified Linux as one of the biggest threats to its success as businesses, governments and others around the world try out or switch to the open-source software.
In the past year, in addition to allowing access to Windows code, Microsoft has also offered steep discounts to government agencies and school systems to buy its software more cheaply.
Takashi Kume, a deputy director at the Japanese Trade Ministry, stressed that the Linux effort is mostly about sharing research findings and encouraging exchange among experts, reducing government outlays on Windows license and maintenance fees, and promoting Linux use in the private sector.