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Taiwan opens arms to open source

The government plans to launch an open-source project as early as next year that could save it as much as $295 million in royalty payments to Microsoft, says a report.

Taiwan is turning its back on software from the likes of Microsoft to develop its own open-source project, according to a recent report.

The Taiwanese government plans to start an open-source project as early as next year that could save it as much as $295 million in royalty payments to Microsoft, according to a report from Taiwan's Central News Agency.

Open-source software such as the Linux operating system may be freely modified and redistributed without the legal and financial constraints of proprietary software from Microsoft, Oracle and others.

An official with the National Center for High Performance Computing, Chuang Tze-nan, announced the plan Monday. Under the project, the government will encourage research and development in office software and the opening of the source code for government agencies and private establishments.

At a meeting that included members of the government's National Science Council, Ministry of Education and other government organizations, legislators said that the government has failed to react to Microsoft's monopoly on Taiwan's office software market.

The government has already launched an investigation into allegations that Microsoft misused its market dominance by indiscriminately increasing prices.

The move to open source is expected to save the government $59 million in royalty payments to foreign manufacturers, while the benefits to the private sector could be as high as $295 million, according to Chuang.

According to other statistics, the government could end up spending that amount on royalty payments to Microsoft alone.

Hsieh Ching-chih, vice chairman of the National Science Center, said there were 1.23 million PCs in Taiwan's government agencies and schools at the end of 2000. If those computers were outfitted with Microsoft software, royalty payments to the software giant could exceed $295 million, Hsieh said.

According to Vice Education Minister Wu Tieh-hsiung, the government is also planning to set up six educational centers around Taiwan to train open-source developers. Three years after the introduction of the open-source project, the centers will be training 120,000 basic users and 9,600 advanced users, he predicted.

Taiwan isn't the only country to favor open-source software over Microsoft's systems. On Monday, the German government announced a deal with IBM and Linux company SuSE to address concerns that it was relying too heavily on Microsoft products.

Governments have been embracing open-source software as a way to cut costs and sometimes also to break free of a U.S.-dominated software market.

Microsoft representatives were not immediately available for comment.