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Tuesday, 8 January, 2002, 21:15 GMT
Linux takes on MS in China
Red Flag Linux
Microsoft is losing out to homegrown Linux software
Microsoft could have a fight on its hands for control of the software market in China as it emerges that arch-rival Linux is experiencing unexpected growth in the region.

Linux offers people the ability to do what they want at a price they can pay

Dan Kusnetzky, IDC
Open-source Linux operating systems have long battled with software giant Microsoft for a greater share of the software market.

Now, it seems it is making headway in the important emerging market of China.

Although figures for 2001 are not yet released, technology analyst IDC claims Linux systems have made surprising headway in the communist state in both server software - a traditional growth market for Linux - and in the desktop market which has been much more difficult for open-source systems like Linux to break into in the past.

Desire to control

One of the reasons for its success in China could be down to its ability to be controlled says vice president of software systems at IDC, Dan Kusnetzky.

"Open source gives a level of control that proprietary software from the likes of Microsoft and HP do not give," explains Kusnetzsky. "It may be that the authorities want to keep a check on who is using computers and firms like HP might take a dim view of what the Chinese Government wants to do," he adds.

An uneasy relationship between the Chinese Government and Western multi-nationals is also cited by analyst firm Gartner Group as the reason why a recent Microsoft bid to provide software to the Beijing regime was rejected.

Out of seven software contracts, six went to Chinese vendors.

"The key factor in its decision has been the Chinese's support of indigenous vendors such as the Chinese Academy of Science's development support of Red Flag Linux OS," says Gartner analyst Louisa Lui.

Another reason that China may be looking favourably on Linux is because it wants to build up its own IT infrastructure, says IDC's Kusnetzsky.

"China is very interested in building its own software industry and open source can be viewed by their operators and adapted without having to do the whole design from scratch," he points out.

Price pressure

The third factor in the rise in popularity for Linux is simple: price. By showing its patronage of systems like Linux, the Chinese Government puts itself in a better negotiating position with the big boys such as Microsoft, believes Kusnetzsky.

He also thinks it could force a global price rethink for the software giant.

"Microsoft will respond to competitive pressures. China is just one example of forces operating worldwide, he says. In other places like South America, Linux offers people the ability to do what they want at a price they can pay."

The impact of Linux on the world software market should not be over-stated, however.

According to IDC's figures for 2000, Microsoft still controlled 94% of the desktop software market and while Linux is expected to overtake the number two - Apple Mac OS - by 2003, it would still control less than 4% of the market.

In server software, it fares a little better and is expected to control around 30% of the market by 2003, according to IDC.

See also:

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Your verdict on 10 years of Linux
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Happy birthday Linux
25 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
Linux: An installer's tale
25 Mar 01 | Business
Life gets serious for Linux
16 Feb 00 | Business
Linux - Microsoft's new nightmare
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