BEIJING -- Chinese developers of open-source software should play a more prominent role in the development of Linux and other open-source software, senior industry executives said at a conference here on Wednesday.
China has a small but rapidly growing appetite for open-source software. Total revenue from Linux sales in China grew 20 percent between 2003 and 2004, from $7.8 million to $9.3 million, according to market analyst IDC. Looking ahead, it expects that figure to continue growing at a compound annual growth rate of 24 percent through 2009, when revenue will top $27 million.
By comparison, IDC expects China's total spending on software and services to top $18 billion by 2009. The amount expected to be spent on Linux may look like peanuts by comparison, but industry executives said Chinese developers are well positioned to take a leading role in the open-source software movement.
"Interesting things are happening here," said Jack Messman, chairman and chief executive officer of Novell Inc., referring to the rapid rise of Linux in China during a speech at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in Beijing.
In particular, Messman praised the Chinese government's support for Linux and open-source software in general, saying the policy has laid a strong foundation for the future development of China's domestic software industry. "Linux and open source provide a golden opportunity to develop this country into a global software powerhouse," he said.
The Chinese government and corporate users also stand to benefit from increased freedom to select the vendors and technologies they want to use, Messman said. "Open source will solve the software monopoly problems that have annoyed the government for a long time," he said, alluding to rival Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system.
That sentiment was echoed by Steve McWhirter, vice president of Asia-Pacific at Red Hat Inc. "Governments are simply unhappy with what they are getting from packaged software," he said.
Chinese software companies and developers have an opportunity to lead some global open-source efforts but they are not connected closely enough to the international open-source community for this to happen right now, Messman said. In addition, Chinese efforts to develop Linux desktop operating systems are not taking advantage of the most advanced technologies that are available, he said.
"If China is going to grow its adoption of Linux and open source, the local developer community must be able to leverage the knowledge in the international community," McWhirter said, noting that Red Hat plans to set up centers to help the company work more closely with Chinese Linux developers.
Novell's Messman promised his company will help to address these issues by serving as a "bridge" between China and international open-source efforts.
To that end, Messman said Novell will open a Linux R&D (research and development) center in Beijing before the end of this year. The center will work closely with Chinese software companies to develop open-source technologies for desktop Linux, software internationalization, and high-performance computing, he said.