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Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
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Intel helping clients in Asia to use Linux

By Ian King and Aiko Wakao
Bloomberg News

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Intel, the world's biggest semiconductor maker, said it is helping Chinese and Indian customers build personal computers that use the Linux operating system, an alternative to Microsoft's Windows software.

Intel is providing customers with software drivers, documentation and resources to "more easily design, build and sell Intel-based desktops with the Linux operating system," the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company said in a statement.

Linux is gaining popularity in Asia among governments and research institutions because it is seen as cheaper and sometimes less prone to attack by computer viruses. The Linux operating system and other programs that run on it may be downloaded for free, cutting computer costs in countries with growing PC markets.

Intel processors, which cost up to $999 each, power more than 80 percent of the world's personal computers. Almost 95 percent of PCs run on versions of Microsoft's operating systems.

Intel spokesman Robert Manetta said his company began to provide the software tools "to meet demand." The tools are being given to companies that make unbranded PCs, he said.

Linux will account for about 6 percent of desktop-operating-system shipments by 2007, up from 2.8 percent in 2002, according to forecasts from researcher IDC. Windows will decline to 92 percent, according to the researcher.

Asian companies are adopting Linux, making the platform more competitive against formats offered by Microsoft at a time it is trying to expand the uses of its products beyond computers.

To attract users in Asia, Microsoft said in September that it would sell a cheaper version of Windows. The software, known as Windows XP Starter Edition, will start selling in India by early next year.

A year ago, Microsoft said it would work with six universities in Japan to develop better security for Windows-based software. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates met with officials in February 2003 to assure the Japanese government that his company's Windows operating system is secure.

Last Thursday in a speech in Singapore, Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer warned Asian governments that they could face patent lawsuits for using the Linux operating system instead of its Windows software, noting that Linux violates more than 228 patents, according to a recent report from a research group.

"Someday, for all countries that are entering the WTO [World Trade Organization], somebody will come and look for money owing to the rights for that intellectual property," Ballmer said.
 
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