Page 7 of 10The Growth of Open Source in Asia
The Open Source movement has developed a steadily growing mass of fans in Asia, especially in India and China. Run a simple Google search on "open source India" or "open source China" and proof of this observation comes in the wealth of material available on the phenomenal growth of Open Source in these countries.
That Open Source has found a large following of believers in Asia is not surprising. Many countries in the region do not have the kinds of per capita incomes and living standards enjoyed in the West. Many governments prefer to save money on licencing fees when they can, particularly as there is affordable and in many cases free, robust, and good quality software that can essentially perform the same tasks that Windows-based systems can.
With the increasing user-friendliness of the more popular Linux distributions, their adoption rates in Asia are likely to grow. The kind of functionality certain Linux distributions have, the quality of the current crop of Linux kernels, and the programming that goes into the distribution are quite remarkable. The PCLinux Operating System (OS), for example, offers among others out-of-box compatibility with Microsoft Word files and Adobe PDFs. The openoffice.org software bundled with the distribution has an in-built capability to convert .doc files to .pdf, as well as the ability to run specific graphical enhancements akin to those available in Windows Vista. Even more remarkable is the fact that the graphical enhancements run perfectly well using an Open Source set of rendering drivers on a machine with a measly 256 MB of Random Access Memory (RAM) and a generic Intel graphics chipset with less than 128 MB of memory, a configuration significantly lower than what is recommended for running Windows Vista.
In software and operating systems that run mission critical servers and data farms, Open Source has likewise been making steady inroads. The server market in Asia is perhaps the best source of revenue for entities like Novell with its Suse Linux Enterprise Server product, and Red Hat with its Linux distributions for servers.
We believe that, especially in China and India, the move toward greater use of Open Source software in government was prompted at least in part by World Trade Organization commitments regarding non-use of pirated software. Open Source poses no real issue with regard to licencing fees and intellectual property restrictions - this despite Microsoft putting itself in an advantageous position in China through a massively coordinated campaign of lobbying and targeted Microsoft development and training actions culminating in President Hu Jintao endorsing Bill Gates as a friend of China and the Chinese people.
In India, the view is equally positive about the future of Open Source. About the only thing holding India back from an explosive growth of the indigenous market for Open Source programs is the lack of coordination among groups of coders and programmers across the sub-continent, and it is only a matter of time before this issue is progressively resolved. This brings us to the following question: Does the growing adoption of Open Source warrant a regulatory response in Asia?
At the moment, we believe that an appropriate policy response ought to be policy and/or regulation focused on: