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Linux Lure

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It was nearly a disaster when Cedar Chang, a government employee in Beijing, installed a Linux operating system in his notebook two years ago. He had a difficult time adjusting to the program, which was significantly different from Microsoft's Windows, and it was hard to find the Web browser and e-mail application.

Chang, who had switched the operating system to comply with the Chinese Government's requirement that all government agencies use legal copies of software, eventually reinstalled the Windows XP, bundled with his IBM notebook.

But when the 27-year-old technology buff downloaded Linux-based Firefox, a very popular Web browser readily available online, the experience was considerably different.

So Chang rethought his decision to switch back to Windows XP. He reinstalled his Linux operating system and, to his surprise, he easily found, and adjusted to, almost all of the software he needed for his work: From office software, a Web browser, e-mail application, to even DVD-burning software.

Chang's experience is just one example of the progress the Linux operating systems, which compete with Microsoft's Windows, have made in recent years, amid controversies on its business model, intellectual property issues, and total cost of ownership.

Linux because it is an open-source software has been a key component in the Chinese Government's efforts to develop the nation's software industry.

Some industry analysts suggest Linux has a major advantage security over Microsoft's Windows operating systems.

Another benefit of open-source operating systems is China's software developers can develop their products with the open-source code. That will help the nation's software industry grow.

The Chinese Government has veen trying to achieve a balance between Linux's advantages and Microsoft Windows' popularity among users.

In addition to supporting the development of Linux software in money, the government has been the biggest purchaser of Linux products.

He told the Open Source Application China 2005 conference in Beijing, on May 26, that provincial-level government departments purchased 45,000 copies of Linux's operating systems last year, about 40 per cent of China's total procurement of the systems.

While the Chinese Government is promoting Linux, a growing number of sources within the technology industry are backing the open-source software.

Chinese software developers have become more mature in the past year.

Despite the progress achieved in the past year, this year may bring more opportunities.

IDC estimates sales of Linux operating systems in China will grow about 22 per cent this year, and that the market will maintain a growth rate of 23.9 per cent annually, on average, until 2009.

"The reason we develop Linux software is not to beat Microsoft or fully take its place, but to give another choice to Chinese users and even global users," says Lu.

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