Linux rivals Windows in land of the rising sun
July 27, 1999
By Robin Lloyd
(CNN) - In a mark of the rising open source-code movement, a single version of Linux has outsold the upgraded version of Microsoft's Windows 98 operating system in Japan for the past three weeks, according to a market research company.
The TurboLinux Workstation J 4.0, released earlier this month in Japan, has outsold Microsoft's Windows 98 upgrade in Japan, reports Business Computer News, which analyzed sales at more than 200 major computer stores throughout Japan.
The figures show TurboLinux J. 4.0 with a 24 percent market share to the Windows 98 upgrade's 13 percent for the week of July 3 to July 9. The figure slips to nearly 20 percent for TurboLinux versus 12 percent for the Windows product for the week of July 17 to July 23.
Microsoft operating systems still outsold Linux products 34 percent to 22 percent for the latest figures available when all its products are combined, according to the report.
TurboLinux Japan says its does not aim to compete with the Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, the software giant which has more than 80 percent market share in the United States.
"We keep telling people that we are simply offering one other option to the users under the slogan 'freedom of choice,'" said company spokesman Haru Mizukawa.
"Windows has its advantages and people should enjoy them as well," he said.
Microsoft refused to comment in detail, saying Windows 98 was designed and marketed for home users, whereas Linux was designed for and marketed to business users. "In looking at the data it is clear that this isn't an apples to apples comparison," a company spokeswoman said.
Linux, in fact, was not designed for any specific market, although it has a special appeal for any user - it is free.
TurboLinux has multi-language appeal
TurboLinux, founded in 1992, is a fast-growing Linux distributor based in San Francisco. In the past year, it has shipped more than 2 million units of Linux globally and is the Pacific Rim's dominant supplier.
TurboLinux, designed to run on Intel platforms, offers the only version of Linux designed for the "double-byte" character sets of the Japanese and Chinese alphabets as well as European languages, a feature that Mizukawa says is part of why Linux has sold so well in Japan.
More importantly, Windows 98 is aging, he says, and Linux has gained support from industry leaders such as IBM, Oracle, NEC, Dell, Compaq and Fujitsu.
"Linux is receiving huge interest from those who want to build secure, stable, and financially reasonable servers," Mizukawa said.
'It's kind of a fad here'
Austin Kurahone, a member of the Tokyo Linux Users Group, said the popularity of Linux is snowballing, especially as an alternativeto Microsoft.
"It's kind of a fad here, everyone is jumping on the Linux band wagon now even if they can't tell the difference," Kurahone wrote in an e-mail interview, adding that Linux has its strengths and weaknesses.
"It's like people are 'in' if they are using Linux," Kurahone said. "It's almost like a status symbol that they know computers and stuff, regardless of if they understand the OS or not."
Internet fuels Linux growth
Linux, developed initially by Linus Torvalds in 1991, is a UNIX-like operating system that, source code and all, is publicly available for distribution.
The need to increase Internet operations is making Linux attractive to some companies because of its low cost.
Companies are interested in using software that can be customized and serviced cheaply, a demand rapidly filled by Linux distribution companies such as Red Hat Software, SuSe Holding, TurboLinux, and Caldera, says Eric Raymond, an early proponent of open source development and a manager with VA Linux, a distributor of Linux systems.
Between 12 million and 15 million installed systems run Linux, compared to a total of about 215 million operating systems installed worldwide, according to John "Maddog" Hall, executive director of the nonprofit group Linux International and an executive with VA Linux.
IDG contributed to this report.
Companies race to support Linux applications
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