US information technology giant IBM and Chinese software firm Kingsoft Wednesday formed an alliance to develop office software for different operating systems, which will become a huge help for the latter to challenge the dominance of software behemoth Microsoft.
"Today, we are standing at the same starting line as our competitor," said Qiu Bojun, chairman of Beijing-based Kingsoft, the biggest domestic office automation software vendor. "This will create a lot of room for cooperation with a broader cross-section of friends."
Kingsoft, one of the biggest challengers to Microsoft's dominance in China's office software market, used to focus on the compatibility of its products with Microsoft's, but it has since been making more moves to develop Linux applications to shrug off the influence and control of the US giant.
According to the agreement, Kingsoft will write office software on IBM's development platform, which will be based on an open standard and support both Linux and Microsoft Windows operating systems.
IBM will also provide its software middleware and training to and technical exchanges with the Chinese software firm to share its experience in the development of Linux.
Linux, based on open source code, is often compared with Microsoft's Windows operating system, which is based on proprietary programming.
IBM, one of the biggest supporters of Linux, has more than 5,000 engineers working on research in the field, whose experience is believed to be critical for Kingsoft.
"The help from IBM will enable us to greatly shorten the development process and improve the quality and functions of our products," said Ge Ke, vice-president of Kingsoft.
Although many Chinese Government departments - a market that Kingsoft and Microsoft fight very hard for - choose to use Linux, they have been complaining about a lack of applications and are unhappy with the applications available, including those belonging to Kingsoft.
The Chinese firm said it would release its first office software support for both Linux and Windows systems by the end of the year.
(China Daily November 6, 2003)