Confucius was born in the state of Lu. When he received news that the powerful state of Qi was preparing to attack his homeland, he sent his gifted disciple Zi Gong to talk to the rulers of the surrounding states. Zi Gong went first to the state of Qi and observed to the military generals the flaws in a strategy to attack Lu. He succeeded in persuading the generals to first attack the state of Wu instead. Zi Gong subsequently went to Wu and instigated the king of Wu to attack Qi…Thus, Confucius saved Lu.
From ninth chapter of Chang Duan Jing.
At first sight, it would appear that there should be an excellent cultural fit between the open source movement in the West, and Chinese values. Open source emphasizes collective knowledge and sharing of competence. In
The use of the web is growing fast in
The Economic Intelligence Unit recently reported a ratio of 100 jobs for every computer science graduate in China, with this number expected to sky-rocket; and Duke University reported 60,000 computer science graduates from 4-year degree programmes in China in 2004, and 292,000 from 3-year programmes. This huge domestic demand, and huge output, of software developers might lead you to expect further momentum for open source in
A recent Eclipse Members meeting noted that
So: what is the status of open source in
Well, there are a small number of open source projects in
An interesting development is the merger of ObjectWeb in
But, perhaps predictably, the main interest in open source in
But then things changed in 2005, despite CIO Magazine’s analysis above: in trade talks,
So now, according to Lou Shouqun of the China OSS Promotion Unit (a non-government organisation) in a recent presentation, the Linux revenues in all China last year (2006) were about 218M RMB (20MЄ), with a market share (by revenue) of just 3%. Other UNIX systems were 52% - the financial services and telecommunications industries in
Things have changed even more significantly since the 2005 abandonment of the SGPR directive: Microsoft seem to have successfully found favour with the federal authorities. Fortune magazine documented Bill Gates recent summer visit to
So, why are there few committers in
The urgency to make money is IMHO a national obsession in
If your parents and grandparents have supported you, a single child, through your professional education as a software developer, their expectations (and needs in their senior age) will be that you will support them. Your partner’s parents and grandparents will have similar expectations. An engineer, including a software engineer, is considered a respected professional: many policy makers, senior business managers, and senior party members also have engineering backgrounds. As a software engineer, your own, your family’s, and society’s expectations are all that you will be financially successful.
Can you be truly financially successful in
In the West, much of the open source activity in fact is carried out within companies, including Intel, Novell, IBM, Sun and Oracle, amongst others. Foreign companies in
But, which foreign companies have so far established software development laboratories in
For domestic Chinese activity, the largest player in open source Linux is Red Flag. It is ambitious to develop into an international player in Asian Linux, and has recently announced a specific initiative. However its current sales revenue is still relatively small, even by Chinese national standards, at just 40M RMB (3.6MЄ).
To the extent that open source development is being conducted in
Well, then how about Chinese open source start-ups ? Are there any budding MySQL ABs, SugarCRMs, or xTuples ? Yes, and I mentioned Huihoo and Red Flag earlier, as examples. But IMHO the open source industry in
Let’s now look at that second question I posed above: why is Microsoft now being much more successful in
It would appear that Microsoft is on a roll in
It is also very interesting to ponder to what extent the prices Windows customers in the West are paying are being used to subsidise Windows customers in the East. Cross-subsidies are of course not at all a new idea in any industry: I find the Microsoft case interesting because it is part of a much broader initiative.
Let me finish by a hypothesis for policy from the Chinese Government perspective. The war is not about whether Windows or Linux will ultimately win. Both are sufficiently low cost here in
The main requirement is excellent application development, on whatever foundation systems and middleware technology are de facto in the global industry (it doesn’t matter which, as long as they are low cost in
“Therefore the Master concerns himself with the depths and not the surface, with the fruit and not the flower….When his work is done, the people say ‘Amazing: we did it, all by ourselves!’’”
The Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu
This was the basis for an invited keynote I was to give at the OS Summit in