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Tue, Nov 18, 2003 - Page 12 News List

Software groups urge open-source use

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Japanese, South Korean and Chinese computer industry groups urged their governments to use operating systems freely available on the Internet, in a statement coinciding with Microsoft Corp chief executive Steve Ballmer's visit to the region to promote his company's software.

The Japan IT Services Association, the China Software Industry Association and the Federation of Korean Information Industries will set up working groups to support organizations and businesses in adopting what's known as open-source operating systems, the industry groups said in a statement following a meeting in Osaka, Japan, on Friday.

The move comes as governments in Asia consider replacing Microsoft operating systems with those based on the Linux system of Raleigh, North Carolina-based Red Hat Inc. Besides being cheaper, Linux systems may help protect against computer viruses and attacks that exploit weaknesses in Microsoft products.

"The Japanese government is trying to standardize around Linux and many Asian governments are putting a lot of pressure on Microsoft by doing the same thing," Stephen Richards, vice president of sales for Computer Associates International Inc said in an interview. "Over time, they need to learn to live with other platforms."

The industry associations in Asia say they will recommend that governments use open-source software in order to guarantee and improve the quality of such products. They'll also develop a directory to track how open-source software is being used.

The groups plan to meet in each of their home countries next year starting in Beijing in March, the statement said.

Linux is one of the biggest threats to Microsoft, the world's biggest software company, and maker of the Windows operating systems, Ballmer has said.

Some Microsoft clients have said they are considering switching to the Linux operating system, whose codes are accessible to all. Microsoft in May lost a contract to sell its Windows operating system to the Munich government as the city decided to switch 14,000 computers to Linux.

Linux was developed in 1991 by Linus Torvalds, a native of Finland. Government agencies and financial companies use the software while companies such as Oracle Corp and BEA Systems Inc sell programs on which it runs.

"Part of the purpose of his visiting Japan is to strengthen business partnerships" with Japanese companies, Tokyo-based spokesman Kazushi Okabe said of Ballmer's visit.

Ballmer is visiting Japan for three days as part of Microsoft's efforts to set up working groups the company has said will help counter threats from software viruses.

"Our number one priority is making sure our products are secure," Ballmer said in a speech today delivered to students at Waseda University in Tokyo. "We need to be sure that when there are problems, that they are small or that we are able to solve them quickly."

Ballmer is scheduled to meet China's Minister of Information Industry, Wang Xudong, on Thursday in Beijing.

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