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A big step for Linux in China

Posted by: Steve Hamm on January 12, 2006

China has long been seen as a fertile ground for Linux and other open source software. In a country where more than 90% of software in use is pirated, it seems like a natural fit. Chinese entrepreneurs can use open source as a foundation for a new generation of home grown applications and services. Yet the proliferation of Chinese Linux distributions was a worry. If they weren’t compatible with each other, the opportunity could be lost to create a rich open source ecosystem.

Well, that worry seems to have been resolved. On Jan. 13 in Beijing (still the 12th in NYC, where I am), the government and the Free Standards Group—an open-source outfit from San Francisco—announced an initiative to get all Chinese Linux distributions to comply with the Linux Standards Base. That’s a core set of common elements that assures that a Linux application will run on multiple versions of Linux.

I reached Free Standards Group Executive Director Jim Zemlin on his cell phone minutes before he participated in the announcement in Beijing. He told me 80 Chinese journalists were waiting for the press conference to begin. "As a result of what we're doing in China, five or 10 years from now you'll have a healthy ecosystem of Linux providers who will be a true alternative to a proprietary operating system." Meaning Microsoft's Windows.

The Chinese Electronics Standardization Institute and the Free Standard Group teamed up to create a certification lab in Beijing. Any Chinese group with its own Linux distribution can use the lab. As of now, Zemlin says, the main distributions in China are compliant with the standard--including Red Flag, CS2C, and Asianux.

One more little bite taken out of mighty Microsoft.

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Reader Comments


January 12, 2006 08:59 PM

in reality, there is less Linux penetration in percentage in China than US. The government can not do anything


January 14, 2006 02:22 AM

What I find a little bit misleading is how some people seem to be of the opinion that Microsoft has set the standard for other to follow.
"...will be a true alternative to a proprietary operating system." Meaning Microsoft's Windows."

This is of course far from reality. When Linux came into existence it was based on Unix (Minix) and has ever since then developed much better operating systems than anything available from MS.

The motto of MS was for a long time:

"This is an illegal operation and will be shut down". Then, the only option was to reboot, because the system became very unstable.
At the same, Linux computers could run for months and years without maintenance.
When Linux has become better and better, MS is still stuck in the past, with endless problems (for example in XP), is still frozen quite often and full of viruses.

The fact is that originally Unix set the standard for a good operating system and Linux has done it much better.

It is obvious, that MS has a big market share. However, that is not because of quality of their product, but, because they got a "head start" in the beginning.

One of the reason why the Chinese have embraced Linux might be because it has everything that a very good operating system must have, like stability, flexibility, power, good support for hardware, low cost and much more.
What does MS have here? The only true option is "good support for hardware".

Therefore, it is obvious that Linux is superior to Windows (like all Unix systems).


January 14, 2006 06:15 PM

You miss the other important thing, the Open Source people bother to check the culture and meanings by using people in that culture to find out what is a better way of working for them and what is offensive in words and gestures. The MS people are well known for that kind of small blunder and always have been. Ever since MS DOS.


January 17, 2006 12:12 PM

Operating systems is critical infrastructure for a nation. China, India, Russia, Brazil and other large nations need to be in control when it comes to their own critical infrastructure.

Open Source plays a important role in this.


January 23, 2006 06:02 PM


I like hearing Linux people say, "Well, Linux is a better os than Windows," and "China is leaning toward Linux because it is better than Windows."

It'd be nice to see a Linux person get their MBA first then see how great Linux is. Don't get me wrong. I've nothing against Linux but Linux is NOT a superior product to Windows and the Chinese gov't did NOT adopt Linux because of its "superior" design. The Chinese gov't is leaning on "open source" because of the rampant software piracy at play in their business community. The fact that Windows and Windows-based appications are so heavily pirated speaks volumes of the efficacy of the Windows platform.

China, instead of attempting to resolve a far-reaching and impossible task of software piracy turned to open source to avoid years of legal battles, fines, and costs. The problem:

1) no standard
2) the majority of IT base only familiar with Windows
3) no set of best practices
4) no mission-critical support, and most importantly

Get it? Probably not. In my experience, those so heavily involved in promoting Linux turn a deaf ear to these issues and instead falsely believe that people will just run to Linux and give it a big hug. This isn't happening in China right now.

On the flip side, it appears that the Linux community (from the practical business side) is coming to grips with these issues and are now trying to establish a framework and standard platform. Until there is one accepted Linux platform, cross-platform interoperability, and cross-application compatibility, there will be no Linux takeover. Windows will continue to be a more viable and attractive business solution.


April 23, 2006 05:33 PM

You miss the other important thing, the Open Source people bother to check the culture and meanings by using people in that culture to find out what is a better way of working for them and what is offensive in words and gestures. The MS people are well known for that kind of small blunder and always have been. Ever since MS DOS.

Alex Linne

May 6, 2006 06:04 AM

According to IDC, China's Linux market revenue reached $11.8 mln in 2005, up 27.1% over 2004. 2005 saw a steady growth in the China Linux market, brought about mainly by the huge volume of government procurements and large-scale SCO Unix replacement by major banks and industrial projects such as Telecommunication and Internet cafes. IDC forecasts China's Linux market will grow at a CAGR of 34.0% from 2006 to 2010, and reach $51.1 mln by 2010

According to Novell, OpenSUSE will be the only fully localised project for a global Linux distribution in China. The website,, aims to offer Chinese and Asian Linux developers "a full-featured, easy to use gateway into the global open source community".

Great news for Linux


December 27, 2006 11:44 PM

I live in China. Most are using windows xp here except see some ACER/Taiwan brands running Linux in retail shops. Windows viruses are rampant here!!! They are helpless! Everything is pirated here.
I am using SuSE Linux 10.2 and it is superior to windows! No viruses, faster USB connectivity, great applications,XGL 3d desktop.and no license fees. What I find is most people have no idea about open souce software because they haven't tried it. Linux systems like SuSE will change that soon. Can't even update IE without a proper license anymore.

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