Red Hat Announces Asia Assault Plans

Linux distributor Red Hat plans to open an Asia Pacific headquarters and make major inroads into the region's consumer market in the New Year.

Mark White, the new general manager for Linux distributor Red Hat Asia Pacific said that the firm has yet to decide upon a location for its regional headquarters, which will oversee operations in Greater China, Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, Korea and India.

The firm has already opened local offices in Singapore and Australia, and is currently interviewing staff in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong office will house the head office for Red Hat's Greater China operations and be dedicated to business development, channel partnerships and training.

"We intend to make it a lot easier for people to buy official Red Hat Linux all around the region than it is now," said White. "We're lining up our retail and consumer distributors for the region now. We'll announce some contracts very early in the New Year. I think we'll see a lot more Red Hat Linux available in the consumer channels at a much better price than have today."

White said that the year ahead would see the enterprise software appearing building a stronger foothold in the consumer market.

"We've had a lot of interest in Japan, Korea and China over the last few weeks in introducing open source software to some of the handheld devices, personal digital assistants as well as set top boxes, games and Sony Playstations."

White said that interest in the operating system was "exploding" in Asia and predicted that the region would become the world's leading Linux adopter.

Though the operating system distributed by Red Hat is identical to that distributed by the firm's rivals and freely downloadable from the Internet, Red Hat aims to distinguish its offering through value-added services.

Regional support services are likely to include 24/7 multilingual telephone support and multilingual telephone support and local support partnerships through distributors.

Most support services will initially be handled by the Australian office, but regional satellite centers are likely to be introduced early next year.

"We're also developing what we believe is the best training program. We'll be launching that over the coming months. Red Hat Certified Engineer, or RHCE is being seen as the industry standard for Linux certification around the
world," claimed White.

"We've established an office in Singapore, we're doing a lot of work with some of the OEMs, we're establishing our distribution network down there, we'll be offering training courses and support from Q1 next year," said White.

He admitted that the company's own distribution in Asia has suffered from a lack of localization, but he promised Chinese, Korean and Thai editions of Red Hat Linux would be released early next year.

The simplified Chinese edition "is about 75 to 80 percent complete," said White, promising to announce the official release at LinuxWorld in Hong Kong in January. A traditional version would be released "as soon as possible".

White admitted that Japan's TurboLinux has had an early advantage in China thanks to its popular Chinese language distribution. TurboLinux claims to have over a 50 percent market share in the Pacific Rim market.

"They've been in the market earlier than us, but if you talk to a lot of the user groups and developers there, they still base a lot of what they do on some version of Red Hat. So we expect that it won't be long before we catch up.
Certainly in Japan where we've just launched a Japanese product we're doing extremely well against TurboLinux in a very short space of time, so I don't think there's any fear that we won't do the same in China," said White, adding that Korean and Thai editions are also likely soon.

"One of the things that I've found around the Asia Pacific region generally, but specifically in China is that there's a very strong set of Unix skills. And a lot of those skills have been translated into Linux," said White.

"There's a tremendous number of Linux users already in China, and we feel that that's only the tip of the iceberg... I would suggest that there are already hundreds of thousands."

White joined Red Hat last week after leaving Compaq, where he was director of Unix marketing in Asia Pacific. He was previously with Tandem Computers and was vice president of the Australian Unix and Open Source User Group (AUUG).

Reported By Newsbytes.com, http://www.newsbytes.com

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