IBM takes Linux push to Asia

Big Blue moves ahead with plans to invest more than $200 million over four years to speed up the development of Linux-based products.

SINGAPORE--IBM is stepping up its efforts to grow the Linux market in the Asia-Pacific region following earlier plans to support demand for the open-source software.

In September, the computer-services giant said it would invest more than $200 million over four years to speed up the development of Linux-based products in Asia. IBM also had planned to invest in seven Linux development and competency centers in the region, as well as hire 300 consultants, researchers and product developers.

Today IBM is well on its way with those plans, yet says it still has some ground to cover.

"We want to focus on the types of issues that are important here," said Deepak Advani, IBM's vice president of worldwide Linux strategy.

Since the initial announcement, seven centers have become operational: Tokyo; Shanghai, China; Beijing; Taipei, Taiwan; Seoul, South Korea; Bangalore; India; and Sydney, Australia. So have four competency centers in Beijing, Seoul, Bangalore and Yamamoto, Japan.

Not all of the expected hires have been brought on board, Advani said. "Getting the right skills takes time," Advani said.

He declined to reveal how much of the $200 million has been spent, but noted that the investment was "ongoing."

Key parts of the IBM Linux initiative were earlier reported to include Japanese and Chinese language versions of developerWorks, IBM's online resource for the developer community.

Linux's underlying code is freely distributed on the Internet, and many companies sell specialized products and services based on the open-source software.

The company is CNET's Linux Center also stepping up its focus on business partner recruitment to sell Linux software and services and develop Linux skills in Asia-Pacific. There are also incentive programs such as "Ready, Set, Linux", which reimburses partners for the cost of getting certified on Linux.

According to Advani, who cited an IDC report released this year, Linux licenses in Asia-Pacific are expected to grow 52.8 percent from 1999 to 2004, above the average worldwide growth of 25 percent for that five-year period.

In the study, Korea and China grabbed the largest slice of the Asia-Pacific market for Linux licenses, with 26 percent and 25 percent, respectively. Next in line is Australia, with 17 percent, and Taiwan, with 12 percent.

Also of interest were Malaysia, India and Korea, with the highest compounded annual growth rates of 80 percent, 79 percent and 64 percent, respectively.

Advani wouldn't specify what amount of the market that IBM was targeting for the region, but he noted that the number of Intel servers shipped that are Linux-based is already close to 20 percent worldwide.

CNET Singapore's Michelle Tan reported from Singapore.

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