Friday, August 13, 2010

2010 Open Source China, Open Source World Summit

I was in Beijing in June representing the Apache Software Foundation at the 5th annual Open Source China Open Source World Summit. The summit, sponsored by the China Open Source Promotion Union (COPU), is not your typical open source conference. The first day, from 9:00 AM to 6:20 PM is a series of 20 minute back-to-back 'keynote' addresses with a single 1 hour 20 min break for lunch. Commercial topics are fair game (and expected). The second day is a half day rountable discussion led by conference chairman, Dr. Lu Shouqun.

Between speakers from Intel, Nokia and Jim Zemlin (Linux Foundation ED), the Linux Foundation's MeeGo project took center stage. Considering that practically all mobile devices are manufactured in China, it's not too surprising that China is interested in developing skills and capturing higher value in open source mobile operating systems and related services.

Conference attendees also heard from RedHat, RedFlag, VMWare/SpringSource, IBM, Software Freedom Law Center and others... all promoting their vision of the world and the role of open source (and their open source based products) in the world.

An observation... 'Open Source' in China is nearly synonymous with 'Linux'.

Another observation... many China watchers understand that China is constantly searching for technology. Not content (and rightly so) with being the maunfacturers of the world, China is looking to build-out skills and capabilities in higher value pursuits. Consider the iPhone. It's manufactured in China, but only a tiny fraction of an iPhone's value is retained by Chinese companies... the vast majority of value is captured by Apple. Today, open source in China is all about business, building higher value skills and developing the national competitive advantage. No stary-eyed egalitarian idealists here.

Overall, I was really pleased with the conference. Got to meet a lot of really interesting people, practice a bit of Chinese and develop some new insights into a country that is endlessly fascinating.

Here is my presentation about the Apache Software Foundation. Much of it will be familiar to Apache watchers. I elaborated on some of IBM's early involvement with the Apache Group. Comments welcome.