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China's Linux coders not sharing, says Red Hat

By CNN's Kristie Lu Stout

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Linux software developers in China are not sharing their modified source code, according to a Red Hat executive.

Red Hat vice president and managing director Mark White said that Chinese programmers are going against the fundamental philosophy of the open-source movement by withholding their code.

But Hong Kong's Sun Wah Linux says Red Hat's comments are rooted only in frustration as the company fails to win a market dominated by domestic players.

"Chinese software developers should be able to work on the Linux kernel project, as a peer, with somebody in Finland, the U.S. or Australia, but they are not doing that," White told Computerworld Hong Kong.

"They are keeping the source code, (which) means that their product becomes wrapped in it and encapsulated, and in a sense (this is) going against the ideals and benefits of what made Linux useful to them in the first place."

'Sour comment'

But according to Sun Wah Linux deputy chief executive Alex Banh, Red Hat's assessment of Chinese programmers is not true, and is simply a comment seeded in frustration.

"One of the issues is Red Hat has had a difficult time penetrating into China," Banh told CNN.

"It might just be a sour comment from Red Hat."

Linux is a free operating system developed by a community of programmers who openly share the source code in an effort to continually improve the language.

Because of the distributive nature of the open-source movement, there is no guarantee that any breakthroughs in Linux development would be shared.

The U.S.-based Red Hat makes money "on the edges" of Linux by charging for Linux documentation and technical support.

The company has already launched a simplified Chinese version of its Linux software and is competing directly against domestic players like Red Flag.

Government blessing

Sun Wah Linux is a shareholder and distributor of Red Flag products in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Founded in October 1999, Red Flag is closely allied to Beijing University's software affiliate Founder and the Software Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It also boasts strong alliances with Compaq, HP and IBM.

Companies like Red Flag and Sun Wah have one key advantage over Red Hat and other U.S.-based Linux firms -- the blessing of the Chinese government.

"When you're backed by the government, it's much easier to get into Linux training and technical support for larger customers," said Banh.

• Red Flag
• Red Hat
• Sun Wah Linux

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