When I look at companies like Red Flag, Turbo Linux, Co-Create and SunWah, I see token open source development houses that are more focused on service and integration. Now, these companies can be great for the community in localizing open source applications and standardizing them for government and financial industry projects, as well as contributing patches back to the community (I can't confirm this), but I don't see these companies very active in the Western community.
Turbo Linux and Red Flag, as of last year, have created their own communities, following on the heels of Western companies like Red Hat and Oracle, but these companies are so focused on the current market, they are not innovating for tomorrow, unlike Lemote and E28. These companies are doing R&D for the sake of R&D; they are leveraging any and all resources from the community and in essence creating a platform for others to innovate from.
Why is Microsoft, Google and a number of other software companies setting up shop in China? One, it is obviously because of the market potential, but the most significant portion of their budget is being spent on R&D. China's 'Golden Children', Sun Wah, Co Create, Red Flag, etc, aren't making money, yet they are surviving. These companies are not taking full advantage of their privileged position in China. Instead of the Western business model of looking after the bottom line, these companies should realize that their place in the market is safe today, but tomorrow is becoming more and more uncertain. They should look at how they can better leverage the assets that Microsoft and Google and fighting over.
So, my proposal is thus: Lemote and E28 are not getting any where near as much government funding as the top 5 open source companies in China, yet they seem to be best positioned for tomorrow. They have created links with the community in and out of China. They have created channels for contribution and given what the community likes best, a clean slate to develop and build on. After my first post on Lemote I had someone from Italy contacting me for a Lemote box and within 24 hours of passing along his request to the Lemote CEO, Dr. Zhang Fu Xin, Dr. Zhang replied and had a box sent out. In the past I tried to make an argument for Western open source organizations to push the community in China, but now, I am beginning to see that China needs to do a better job of reaching out to the West and they may just be surprised with how much support they will get. It is unfortunate that the majority of companies here are so dependent on handouts and think that "if we establish a big enough presence a Western company or the government will do the rest".
I hear a lot of talk, I see a lot of pictures of prominent Chinese open source figures with Western open source champions, and I see a lot of handshaking and exchanging of ideas, but what I don't see is the majority of Chinese organizations taking the matter into their own hands. My point being, is China publicly wants to support Linux, but the West has done very little in regards to promoting community ideals which are sinking in at the upper most echelons. Aside from Lemote, E28 and the Linux Virtual Server Project (LVS), very few Chinese companies are giving the West something to think about. China's Top 5 are going to have to turn their businesses inside out and focus on building the community around them and then through that community innovate and establish links to the West.
This all goes hand in hand with my conspiracy theory I eluded to in my previous blog titled "Good reason to strike a compromise". China uses Linux in the same way it used the threat of its own RFID and Wi-Fi standard, to leverage better deals with the West.