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IBM gift creates new tech courses

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OSS

A high-tech wave of the future will soon be washing ashore in Wichita.

IBM is donating about $5 million in software and training to start a college program teaching open source software -- a growing range of computer programs that rely on freely-published software.
College officials in the Wichita area are exulting over the gift, saying it eventually could make Wichita a magnet for high-tech businesses.

"We have aviation, health care, manufacturing and services," said Jackie Vietti, president of Butler County College. "Why not have our region known for IT (information technology)?"
The two-year program will lead to a certificate in e-business. It could start this fall or next winter.

The certificate qualifies students to get jobs as Web developers, software developers, e-business solution advisors or business application developers, said Alex Rodrigues, who helps manage the program for IBM.

IBM plans to introduce other certificate programs to local students, such as in networking or database management, later.

IBM is making the donation to the Wichita area colleges because the number of young people going into information technology has dropped in the past few years, say company officials.

It picked Wichita because a local IBM official got enthused about the project and got the company committed to come here.

The demand for people skilled in developing and managing open source software is growing, company officials said.

"They will have a skill that is woefully lacking in today's market," said Amy David, IBM's vice president of the sales for public sector, western region.

IBM's desire for more people trained in developing and managing open source software dovetails with the desire of state officials to create high-paying jobs.

Open source software is computer code that is publicly available, rather than secret such as that in Microsoft's Windows.

Programs using open source software such as Linux and Firefox have begun to dent the dominance of Microsoft, according to PCWorld.com.

IBM has become the biggest supporter of open source software, recently releasing the code on 500 of its software patents to the public.

Because open source software makes it harder for one company's software to control other company's applications, many in the high-tech industry see its spread as a threat to Microsoft and its Windows, Internet Explorer and Office programs.

However, Microsoft still controls most of the crucial operating system market for desktop and laptop computers. Microsoft's share of the PC operating market is still above 90 percent, while Linux and Apple each account for about 3 percent of shipments, according to PCWorld.com. The presence of Linux in the server market is more pronounced.

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