March 7, 2003 11:59 AM PST

Programmers team up on Linux for Asia

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More than a hundred engineers are collaborating to build an Asia-Pacific version of the Linux operating system.

The programmers met in Thailand this week to form a working group aimed at developing an open-source system to challenge the dominance of Microsoft on server computers.

While Linux is making some headway in the region, a recent survey by research firm IDC revealed more than 50 percent of Asian servers still run some flavor of Microsoft Windows. Although installed on only 6 percent of Asia-Pacific servers, Linux enjoyed the highest growth rate last year, more than double that of Unix.

The as-yet-unnamed pro-Linux group hopes to develop a secure, stable and affordable open-source alternative through extensive online collaboration, according to the Japanese daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun.

The group comprises members from countries around the Asia-Pacific region, such as Korea, China and Japan, and includes representatives from universities and regional companies like Sharp and Toshiba.

Though this is not the first attempt in Asia to build a new version of Linux, it is possibly the first to involve Asia-Pacific cross-border cooperation.

Governments in the region have heightened their focus on open-source software in a bid to lower operating costs and to maintain national security.

China for example, has produced its own version of Linux, Red Flag Linux, as well as its own office productivity suite, RedOffice, which go head-to-head with Microsoft's Windows and Office packages.

The mounting pressure has recently forced Microsoft to disclose its closely guarded Windows source code to the Chinese and Taiwanese governments as part of the company?s government security program.

CNETAsia's Winston Chai reported from Singapore.


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