English version of China's Red Flag Linux due soon

China's Red Flag Linux Software is preparing to release an English-language version of its Red Flag Desktop 4.0 operating system, according to a company executive.

The English version of Desktop 4.0 will be the first non-Chinese commercial product offered by the company and will help Red Flag expand into international markets, a long-standing goal.

"Red Flag will release our English Desktop 4.0 version by the end of this year," said Alice Yang, a company spokeswoman, in an e-mail. The Chinese-language version of the desktop operating system was released in July.

International expansion has been a goal for Red Flag since the company was established but it has only had Chinese-language software to offer. That has limited Red Flag's reach outside mainland China to the Chinese enclaves of Hong Kong and Macau, Taiwan, and Chinese-speaking users in other parts of Asia.

In addition to the coming introduction of an English version of Desktop 4.0, Red Flag's international expansion plans received a boost last month when the company announced a pact with Hewlett-Packard. The two companies have agreed to work together to market Red Flag Linux to enterprise customers, first in China and then in markets around the world. Under the terms of that agreement, HP will provide Red Flag with help in sales and marketing, technology development, training and support services.

Even with HP's help, Red Flag's efforts to break into the global Linux market will take time, and the company will first focus on building its business in Asian markets, according to one analyst.

"Red Flag products don't have many advantages in the global market," said Jenny Jin, a software analyst at IDC China. "The company will expand into (the) Asian market first, depending on its global partners."

Red Flag is already moving in that direction. In May, the company announced a deal with Taiwan's Acer to load Red Flag Linux on PCs sold in parts of Southeast Asia. But that deal, along with Red Flag's alliance with HP, falls short of the company's original expansion plans, first laid out by Liu Bo, the company's president and chief executive officer, in 2000.

At that time, Liu announced plans for Red Flag to introduce Japanese and Korean versions of Red Flag Linux followed by the release of an English version of the operating system. These plans were to have been completed by the end of 2002.

While the first English version of Red Flag Linux is soon to hit the market, the company appears to have delayed indefinitely its plans to offer Japanese and Korean versions of the software.

"So far, we have no schedule for Japanese and Korean versions" Yang said.

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