Survey: China's software developers eye Linux

A survey of 700 developers in mainland China revealed that while the Windows operating system dominates the country's software development efforts, a significant proportion of programmers are beginning to develop applications for Linux or plan to do so in the next year.

The survey, to be released Monday by research company Evans Data Corp., paints a different picture of the software development community in China than in North America, where a smaller percentage of developers said they plan to experiment with Linux applications in the coming year.

About 27 percent of the developers polled in China said they are currently writing Linux applications. Looking ahead, 66 percent said they would "probably" or "absolutely" write Linux applications within the next year. Only 9 percent said they had no intention to write for the open source operating system in the next year, according to the survey.

In contrast, about 40 percent of North American developers surveyed in January by Evans Data, as part of a separate study, said they plan to write Linux applications within the next year, according to the Santa Cruz, California, company.

Despite the apparent interest in Linux in China, the target operating system for deploying applications "is still very much Windows," said Esther Schindler, an analyst with Evans Data. Almost 80 percent of the developers polled said applications written for commercial resale and those deployed internally were written to run for some version of Windows. Only about 4 percent of those surveyed said applications that have been actually deployed run on Linux.

The gap between the percentage of developers writing for Linux and the fraction that actually deploy applications for Linux suggests that there is a great deal of testing going on in China's software development community, Schindler said.

"It seems they're evaluating Linux a whole lot," she said. "Linux is being used still by a small number of developers, but that seems like it's poised to change."

The level of confidence in the open source operating system was also greater in China than in North America, the survey showed. About 77 percent of respondents in China said they are "very supportive" of building mission-critical applications to run on Linux. In North America, about 58 percent of those polled said Linux was sturdy enough to be used for mission-critical applications, Evans Data found.

In addition to surveying operating system trends, the Evans Data survey found that security breaches were more common in China than in North America. About 47 percent of developers polled in China said that their company experienced a security breach in the last year, compared to less than 20 percent in North America. The most common form of security breach, according to the survey, occurred as a result of a computer virus attack. That was followed by a deliberate hack into a database.

Also notable, there was a distinct difference in the average years of programming experience between North American developers and Chinese developers. In North America, those surveyed by the research company had an average of 16 years programming experience. In China, developers on average had only four years experience.

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