Open source no threat in Asia: Microsoft

MANILA (03/11/2004) - Although the governments of some Asian countries like China and Malaysia have openly declared their support for the open source movement, a Microsoft Corp. official remains unfazed, saying this poses no threat to the company's business in the region.

"I believe there is no government that has a policy going beyond recommending open source," said Peter Moore, Microsoft's chief technology officer in the Asia-Pacific. "If so, I believe that is not to their best interest."

Moore also reiterated that open source does not compete solely with Microsoft but with the entire field of commercial software providers.

Microsoft recently announced a modified version of its Windows XP operating system for Thailand that supports the Thai government's low-cost PC program.

Available in the Thai language and targeted at first-time PC users, the version is reportedly priced at about US$40, compared to several hundred dollars for the standard edition of Windows XP.

This initiative is widely seen as a move on Microsoft's part to counter the growing wave of support for open source by governments in developing countries, their answer to the high costs of commercial software.

However, according to Moore, this initiative from Microsoft is "not entirely making a statement about price reduction or piracy" but is about allowing users access to government services over the Web.

He added that similar initiatives have been undertaken in some countries in Asia and Latin America. The Microsoft official had a direct hand in the Thai initiative and talked personally with officials of Thailand's ICT Ministry.

When asked if a similar initiative can be launched in the Philippines, Moore said this would require "further analysis." He added: "We will consider the needs of the Philippines, included in a larger group of countries. The first question to consider is if it's the right thing to do."

Moore is currently visiting Asia-Pacific countries, including the Philippines, to promote and espouse the benefits of commercial software.

"Commercial software will always be a viable option. Microsoft will continue to provide users with the best solutions commercially available," he stressed.

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