Monday, April 1, 2013

China and Linux: a Virtuous Cycle


China is standardizing on a Linux-based OS, Ubuntu Kylin. A Virtuous Cycle is being put into place, that will enrich China, and the Linux ecosystem.

What this means for China:

1. Chinese users may not have Free Speech, yet, but they'll have Free Software.

2. All Chinese children are going to use an OS that looks and feels, and is the same.
Their educational curriculum will be based around a wholly open and transparent OS.

3. From a security standpoint, China has done well to end dependence on foreign, closed-source software.

What this means for Linux:

An increased user-base augurs significant improvements for Linux.
The Network Effect will make the Linux ecosystem more prosperous.

Suddenly, there is a world of incentive to develop for Linux -- device drivers, applications, even malware! Linux will get pounded on a lot harder, and tested in various contexts.

Monoculture is a bad thing, but let's face it -- a little forced UX uniformity might just be the recipe for Linux on the Desktop.

So many Chinese developers will learn the Linux source code!  Under a million eyes, all bugs are shallow. Linux just got those extra eyes, scouring for bugs.

Skeptics cite the doctrine of "ICFC" -- "In China, For China". Meaning, Chinese engineers will heavily modify Linux and render it useless outside of China. However, I believe that the Chinese see value in remaining connected with the global Open-Source software community. It is for this reason that Ubuntu Kylin is being developed in partnership with Canonical of UK, and favored over Red Flag Linux.

What this means for India:

The only Operating System options Indian users typically consider are:

1. Pay for Windows
2. Pirate Windows

Neither of these options is a sustainable model for a country so populous.

India has been called a Strategy-less Culture. There is definite value to following an organic, laissez-faire approach, and avoiding early optimization. However, there is a real danger that India will accept shortsighted incentives and align itself with closed-source software vendors. This is most true in the education sector. While Chinese students will be using an open system, and gaining deep knowledge of their Free software, Indian students could be saddled with opaque and expensive foreign software.

There is a tremendous opportunity for India to officially standardize on Ubuntu Linux as well. In this way, India will become part of the thriving Free Software ecosystem, strengthen the common platform, and find co-prosperity with China. India can align itself with Linux and participate in this rising trend, while remaining as independent and sovereign as ever.


1. The Emergence of Open-Source Software in China

2. People's Republic of Open-Source: China Preps National Linux Distro