Linux And China

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I see the Chinese are up to their old tricks again. The Peking city government took something called “Red Flag” Linux over MS for its OS.

For at least a century, Westerners with things to sell have been mesmerized by the size of the Chinese market. They keep saying, “if I could just sell one item each to all of them, I’ll be filthy rich!”

China knows and counts on this. Standard operating procedure is to control access to the market. Then they keep waving that carrot of access just out of reach of the Western horse until those foreign dogs give the store away.

Usually, part of giving the store away involves such a degree of technology transfer that sooner rather than later, China can make the product itself and say “Hasta La Vista” to those gullible foreign dogs.

Until now, MS products have been common in China simply because China wasn’t paying for them, and there really wasn’t much MS could do about it. China’s entry into the World Trade Organization makes this approach more difficult and embarrassing.

WTO or no WTO, the one thing China is not going to do is start paying those foreign dogs boatloads of money from now on.

So what China is undoubtedly saying to MS through this awards and some others like it is something like this:

“OK, you want us to stop piracy, fine. Please don’t think that means we’re going to start paying you billions and billions of dollars and greatly stunt our economy. Either you give us your products for next to nothing legally, or we’ll just use Linux products for next to nothing and single-handedly make Linux a major threat to you.”

Will Microsoft keep going for the carrot, or will they call China’s bluff?

I think it’s a bluff, and I think MS should call it.

Now this is high-stakes poker.

On the one hand, if China reacts by trying to make Linux the national standard, this would be the breakthrough opportunity for Linux. This would be Linux’s best shot at breaking the effective MS monopoly.

On the other hand, if Linux can’t deliver the goods as well as MS, and China just become an isolated Linux island in a Microsoft world, then Linux will not be a boat but an anchor to the Chinese economy.

I don’t think China really wants to take the Linux route. If they did, they would have already done it. I think they’re stringing MS along with their market as the carrot and Linux as the stick. I think they think they can eventually have their MS cake and eat it, too.

Of course, I don’t know how reasonable MS is being in these negotiations, they may well not be.

But all the stringing along and delays and the rest leads to one endgame, unless MS has the courage and confidence in the superiority of their products to walk away from the table.

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