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Red Hat plans Linux push in China

The leading seller of the Linux operating system plans an expansion into China, potentially including a partnership with China's Red Flag Linux.

NEW YORK--Red Hat, the leading seller of the Linux operating system, plans an expansion into China, potentially including a partnership with China's Red Flag Linux.

Red Hat will begin its China push with an office in Beijing, then add another in Shanghai, said Alex Pinchev, who leads international operations and in December was promoted to lead global sales as well.

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China is a vast market, but one whose cultural, economic and governmental barriers make it a difficult market to enter. Red Hat therefore has been in talks with Beijing-based Red Flag Linux, Pinchev said in an interview at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo here.

He said Red Hat would like to have a formal partnership with Red Flag, though he didn't offer details.

China is a fast-growing technology market, and Red Flag has some clout. The Chinese government is an investor, and Red Flag has partnerships with Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Lenovo (formerly Legend) and Miracle Linux, an Asian Linux seller in which Oracle has invested.

China is leery of using software that has inner workings it can't study, Pinchev said, which is one reason open-source products have appeal there. Microsoft, responding to that desire, has set up a lab in China where the government may scrutinize Windows' underlying source code.

Red Hat, based in Raleigh, N.C., got its start in the United States, but in recent quarters has been concentrating on international sales. For example, the company has opened a 20-person sales and marketing center in India, Pinchev said.

In addition, Red Hat's fastest-growing market is Europe, long considered the stronghold of Red Hat's chief rival, SuSE Linux, acquired this month by Novell.

Pinchev is based in Washington, D.C., but leads a globetrotting life that's an extension of his well-traveled past. He was born in Russia, raised in Israel, lived for years in Germany, and is married to a Texan, he said.