New Zealand untapped

New Zealand is a largely untapped resource when it comes to Linux and open source technology. And if any country is likely to adopt open-source solutions in a big way, it is New Zealand.

I just got back from New Zealand and Fiji, and I simply couldn’t resist sharing some raves and rants about my experiences.

In New Zealand I gave two presentations at the Computerworld Expo in Auckland. My first presentation dealt with Linux standards. My message was simple: Red Hat will remain the de facto standard. Linux Standard Base (LSB) may be a necessary effort, but LSB is far too little and too late to level the playing field for commercial distributors.

As much as I’d like to see all distributions adopt Debian as their base distribution, the only way commercial Linux distributors can remain in the game for the long haul is to adopt Red Hat as their base and add value from there. In the second presentation I gave an overview of open-source web applications development tools.

The New Zealand Computerworld show was not Linux-specific, but Linux was supposed to be a prominent part of the show. However, most of the Linux vendors cancelled at the last minute due to poor planning on their part and the lagging economy. Even Red Hat cancelled its booth.

That, in my not-so-humble opinion, was a big mistake. New Zealand is a largely untapped resource when it comes to Linux and open source technology. And if any country is likely to adopt open-source solutions in a big way, it is New Zealand.

It is a marvellous country populated with some of the most talented people in computing. And it has one very big advantage that we in the US do not have. It is not rich enough to throw money at new ventures and it’s not wealthy enough to throw money at every computing problem that comes along. That makes New Zealand an ideal market for open-source solutions. And it makes New Zealand one of the best places to create a branch office for open-source products.

I’ve said it several times before in different ways, but the point bears repeating, especially in this context. Many, if not most, of the dot-coms that are faltering today should not be faltering at all. They should be growing at a comfortable and profitable rate. But they are not because they overspent in an unrealistically enthusiastic market.

Part of the irrational exuberance of the market was expressed by tossing dollars at problems that should have been solved with less money and more intelligence. This is where New Zealand and countries like it have an advantage over the US. They can’t afford to throw money at problems, so they think the problems through and solve them in the most cost-effective manner.

New Zealand remains at the bleeding edge of network computing. In the US we continue to plop down an expensive PC on every desk, regardless of the user’s needs. New Zealand VARs and consultants were among the first to build solutions around thin clients and continue to do so with great success.

Likewise, that is why I predict New Zealand will be a trailblazer when it comes to open-source solutions. I’ll be keeping an eye on the progress there, and I’ll report any interesting developments. Hopefully we in the US will take notice of the successes and imitate them. We have a lot to learn from the smaller but wiser members of the global community.

After the conference, my family and I spent an ill-timed but greatly needed vacation at a resort in Fiji called Musket Cove for a little more than a week. What can I say about Fiji except that my family had to hog-tie me and drag me onto the plane to get me to come home? Except for New Zealand, I have never met a friendlier people nor a more beautiful land. To quote Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous line, “I’ll be back”.

Petreley is the founding editor of VarLinux.org and LinuxWorld. Send email to Nicholas Petreley.

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