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Open source: Brazil shies away from Redmond

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Open source got an unlikely supporter with Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has publicly shunned Microsoft's Windows operating system in favor of Linux. Many governments, in both Western and developing markets, view open source software as a way to challenge Microsoft's monopoly.

Earlier this year President da Silva, who leads one of South America's largest economies, appointed self-proclaimed Linux adherent Sergio Amadeu to head up Brazil's IT Institute.

Mr Amadeu is reported to have said that paying software licensing fees to companies [like Microsoft] is unsustainable economically, especially when applications that run on the open source Linux operating system are much cheaper.

Brazil recently signed a letter of intent with IBM to help boost government use of such platforms as Linux. Mr Amadeu faces the uphill task of bridging a very wide technology gap: just 10% of Brazil's 170 million population own personal computers. He believes that open source Linux is the cheapest way forward.

So far, only two small government agencies in Brazil - Mr Amadeu's own department and the government-run news agency - have made the jump away from Microsoft operating systems. Mr Amadeu is also eyeing the country's half million Windows-variant electronic voting machines as a target for switching to open source software.

Open source still represents a tiny share of the overall global software market. But it is rapidly turning into the "people's" choice for IT, with many governments embracing the software as a way to break the monopoly of Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft.

Brazil is not alone in eyeing Linux and open source. Other developing countries, notably India, are much further advanced in its promotion and adoption. But an increasing number of privately-held Brazilian companies are reportedly either using or testing Linux to some degree. For example, the country's largest food chain outlet has partnered with IBM to pioneer a Linux-based home-delivery system.

Open source uptake is not just restricted to the poorer countries. Federal departments in France, Germany, China, and even the US have adopted Linux servers. Though cost is a primary driver for adoption, many Linux supporters also consider the open source system to be more stable and less susceptible to viruses and hacker attacks.

Source: Computerwire/Datamonitor

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