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China bans Win2k, developing Red Flag Linux instead

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China is to ban government use of Windows 2000 and is developing its own Linux-based operating system instead, according to reports this morning from Beijing. The move, which doesn't seem to have been entirely confirmed as yet, follows on from claims last year that China intended to ban both Intel processors and Microsoft software for security reasons (China says no to PII, Win98). According to the Yangcheng Evening News, Chinese officials intend to both save money and boost local development via the move. Most of the Microsoft software used in China isn't actually paid for, but the government claims to be running a clean operation, so if it upgraded to Win2k it would cost a bundle. Unless of course it got a present from Microsoft. But while you could maybe reckon this is just a bit of price-gouging by China, the development of what seems to be called Red Flag Linux (unless you want tanks on your lawn, Mr Young, we'd caution you not to sue) is being justified for other reasons. According to Chinese officials quoted in the paper the development of an indigenous operating system is being seen as an IT parallel to the cold war leaps China made in producing nuclear weapons, missiles and satellites. Exactly (or even approximately) how China intends to conform to Linux licensing terms and conditions isn't made clear, but any geeks out there salivating over the prospect of gaining access to the source for missile control systems shouldn't hold their breath. In the strange coincidences department some of you may have noted the triumphant conclusion of a US-China trade deal last year, paving the way for China's entry to the World Trade Organisation. These moves were designed to foster free trade and thus to make it easier for overseas companies to sell their wares in China untrammelled by embargoes and tariffs. Ahem, as we say in Redmond. ®

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