Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Open source booming in Asia

Open source code is now used by over 70 per cent of software developers in Asia, according to a new report.

The number of developers using open source in the region has surged more than 40 per cent in just three years, Evans Data Corporation revealed in a recent survey of software engineers.

"Developers who faced difficult coding assignments had a harder time before open source software became common," said the research firm.

"This is because the developer can see every bit of [the code] to see how a [software application] functions and how it can be modified. This is much less awkward than working with proprietary binaries which operate as black boxes."

Linux has proved especially popular with Asia's many hardware manufacturers, as it gives them access to tried and tested software at a low cost.

"One of the main advantages of using Linux is that it is cheaper than the Windows solution," said Renee Chen, at Taiwanese software developer Cyberlink, which recently cooperated with Compal on a Linux-based TV phone.

"All the right players are involved to make Linux a key component of all mobile devices, and we are looking forward to taking part in that achievement," said Liu JiTang, vice general manager at Chinese handset manufacturer Datang Mobile.

Evans Data questioned 396 software developers throughout Asia Pacific, including China, India, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Some 70 per cent of respondents said they used open source modules in their applications, 19 per cent said they did not, and 10 per cent did not know. Eva ns Data's last such survey in 2003 showed that 50 per cent used open source.

Alarmed by licensing fees and the high cost of some proprietary software, numerous countries in Asia have made at least some effort to foster open source development.

South Korea recently announced a Winter of Code competition to promote open source use, funded by private and public sponsors including games company NCSoft.

Developers of winning software projects are awarded $10,000 prizes. The competition is open to students in South Korea.

"With open source code, a developer can look over the virtual shoulder of the programmer who already solved a problem that the developer faces today," said the Evans Data researchers.

"Not sure how the database connector works? It is easy to look at several examples and, since it is legal, to use that code in one's own applications."

The number of servers worldwide running Linux is predicted to rise from 24 per cent in 2005 to 33 per cent in 2007, compared to 59 per cent for Windows, according to research firm IDC.

Linux will also double its small share of the desktop PC market, which is dominated by Windows, from three per cent in 2005 to six per cent in 2007, IDC predicts.

The global market for Linux hardware and software will surge 26 per cent per year, analysts believe, reaching $36bn in 2008.

The Evans Data survey also found that the use of XML is growing strongly in Asia. More than half of Asian software developers questioned said they expected to be using the format by 2007.

XML was adopted early by open source developers because of its open nature. It has only recently begun to take hold with proprietary software vendors like Microsoft, which is building XML file support into the forthcoming version of Office 2007.