If this were Jeopardy, and I a mustachioed Alex Trebec, that would be the answer. But what is the question? I’ll take the Linux category for $0, please, but remember that’s free as in speech, not beer (the Germans grumble at that one; as I write this, it’s almost Happy Hour in Munich).
The question? Try this: What are some of the nations of the world that have dumped Microsoft Windows in lieu of the Linux operating system?
2006 was full of these kinds of stories. 2007 is shaping up to be more of the same. The countries I named above were but a handful of those named in press releases and news articles spread across the entire Internet last year. In fact, two old story pitches about India’s Tamil Nadu government and a Mexican Mandriva migration currently sit tacked to the wall on my right. Like many things on my desk, they have a bit of dust on them, but the trends contained on their pages persist in other countries today.
China, for example, was in Red Hat’s sight this week. Andrew Hu is the new president of Red Hat operations in China. Hu’s most recent position was president of Asia Pacific for Wyse, a thin client software developer. “Asia Pacific is a key market for Red Hat and we are committed to investing in resources to continue growing our presence in this region,” said Gery Messer, president of Red Hat’s Asia-Pacific Operations.
The move makes economic sense for Red Hat, but finding the same success it sees in other markets will not be an easy task. Red Flag Software Co., for example, is already well entrenched in the Chinese market. According to the China Open Source Software Promotion Union, Red Flag Software ranked first among the local enterprises with a market share of 32.1%. This was higher than both Novell and Red Hat. It will be interesting to see what Hu and Red Hat have cooking for this new landscape. If nothing else, China appears ready to be Asia’s Linux mascot.
I say this because the silver lining for outsiders like Red Hat and Novell is that the landscape is already friendly to Linux, regardless of the source. According to statistics from the China Open Source Software Promotion Union, Linux’s sales in the Chinese market reached 218 million Yuan in 2006, up 41%. In 2006, seven million computers in the domestic market were signed up for pre-installed of Linux, making up 35% of the computers in the Chinese market (perhaps Dell should be taking notes?). According to the People’s Daily Online, “the domestic brand, Linux, has essentially matured.”
Let’s not pigeon hole that maturity sentiment to just China, however. We could just as easily substitute the Tamil Nadu government in India for China’s Open Source Promotion Union. In January, C. Umashankar, managing director of state-owned Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu (ELCOT), said his government is fast migrating to Linux operating systems. Cost and security were his motivation. More than 6,500 Linux systems have already been packed off to villages and another 6,100 Acer desktop systems with Novell SUSE Linux were en route. All ELCOT servers will run on Redhat. ELCOT expects to train 30,000 government officials in Linux and Open Office too. The migration is taking place throughout this year.
Japan, too, is wary of Windows. They were so eager to ditch, it seems, that a consortium was formed in May to help them deploy all new open source and Linux systems. Oracle, NEC, IBM, HP, Hitachi and Dell are among 10 IT equipment and software vendors that make up the consortium. The move to Linux in Japan is actually the result of a edict from the country’s government to make Linux and open source a priority for all IT procurements. The program officially begins next month.
An “official edict” from the government to deploy open source. When that kind of thing happens in the States, it usually gets bogged down in hearings and the state government CTO resigns in protest because Microsoft shows up. I would know, I saw it happen almost on my doorstep here in Massachusetts with the OpenDocument Format debate. Who knows where that debate stands today. Peter Quinn is gone, off to enjoy the private sector, and newsworthy ODF announcements haven’t hit my Google Alerts box since 2006.
But those worldwide Linux-for-Windows mass migrations have continued to flow. And it’s all starting in developing countries that will hold some serious weight in 10 to 15 years (or sooner, like China). It’s the reverse effect of what we saw here in the United States and Europe; brick and mortar shops are getting Linux from the get-go, meaning open source is far more accepted in mission critical roles than it would be at a big time American shop. That could mean a leg up on today’s leaders in the near future.
If entire governments — and not just the brick and mortar ones found in Brazil and India — are committing 100% to Linux and open source, I think it begs another question: Is the world ready to live without Microsoft? Munich’s migration foibles make the answer to that question harder to come by, but the rest of the world, it seems, is trying to answer with an emphatic “yes.”