Thu, Sep 04, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Linux is the path to a bright new future

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

If it wishes to secure a position in the global information technology (IT) market, Taiwan had better speed up its progress in developing a Linux-based operating system, IT industry analysts said yesterday.

Compared with neighboring countries such as China and Japan, whose governments have decided on or are considering using open-source operating systems to manage central-government data networks, Taiwan is still at the preliminary stage in this field, they said.

"Taiwan needs to catch up [in Linux development] or it may miss a great business opportunity in the near future," said Victor Tsan (詹文男), managing director of the Market Intelligence Center, a Taipei-based IT research center.

Around 88 percent of computers in the nation use Microsoft Windows, and only 8 percent run on Linux, Tsan said. He attributed the low ratio of Linux utilization in Taiwan to the fact that computers using Linux will not be able to communicate or trade files with those on a Microsoft-based system.

Low popularity hinders Linux's local acceptance.

"We originally focused on distributing Linux-based software in Taiwan," said Rita Wu (吳素絲), a marketing executive at Coventive Technologies Ltd (網虎), which offered Linux-based software to schools around Taiwan a few years ago.

"But after two years of bleak sales, we decided to shift our business strategy and focus on developing a Linux-embedded system for information appliances [IA]," Wu said.

However, the situation in China is very different, as it is currently working on developing a Linux-based operating system for use in personal computers. "Linux is gaining popularity in China, since the Chinese government is very supportive of it," she said.

An operating system is open-source if its software code is publicly available. Seeking to reduce its heavy reliance on Microsoft's Windows operating system and to eliminate royalties, China is promoting the use of Linux in government and schools.

Compared to the very limited market here for open-source software, China represents a market full of potential for Taiwanese companies, Tsan said.

"When the Chinese Linux-based operating system is successfully developed, Taiwanese software developers are positioned to profit from it, due to our shared langua-ge," he said.

Meanwhile, the global trend has caught government officials' attention. In late April, the Cabinet announced it would invest NT$200 million to facilitate the development of Linux-based software.

According to the Cabinet's science and technology advisory group, the special budget will be used in software developers' training programs, product research and development and for setting up Linux compatibility tests and certification centers.

Currently there are around 20 Taiwanese companies making Linux products, such as server applications and embedded products. The government hopes to increase that number to 50 by 2007.

The authorities are also setting a target to have 10 percent of personal computers and 30 percent of Internet servers used by government agencies and corporate networks run on a Linux-based system by 2007.

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