Linux in China: Not ready for prime time

By Jonah Greenberg

By Salon Staff
Published August 11, 2000 7:31PM (EDT)

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The writer has created cogent arguments concerning why Chinese should use pirated MS software. But is he aware of the difference it makes in business and education to have Open Source? Most businesses and large education institutions need software that is custom-tailored, the more configurable the better. Linux isn't primarily about cute-but-static desktops, it's about the future of flexible computing in servers and hand-held devices. Microsoft just doesn't care enough about the Chinese to meet their needs in these areas, and Chinese using Linux do. It's simply to their tactical advantage to go open-source.

-- Kurt Van Kuren

The author explains that few people in China use Linux at present because most Chinese-language applications are available only for Windows, and, thanks to rampant software piracy, anyone can obtain Windows for next to nothing.

We can expect this to change in the next two or three years, for two reasons. China is joining the WTO next year and so will be obliged to crack down on software piracy. Soon Windows and Office will be available only at a price that very few Chinese computer owners can afford. In addition, there is much effort by volunteers, the government, and commercial enterprises to develop Chinese versions of many software programs that will run on Linux. Within a few years everything that most desktop users want will be available for free or a very low cost.

Microsoft cannot effectively fight Linux because if it lowers the price of its software enough that Chinese computer owners could afford it, then entrepreneurs will buy up millions of copies of the low-priced software and resell it at a large profit in countries where Microsoft software normally sells for higher prices, thereby destroying Microsoft's profit margins.

I think that in two or three years we can expect Linux to become the dominant desktop system in China.

-- Les Brunswick

Salon Staff

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