August 15-17 was when the annual Linux World Exhibition came rolling back into Beijing. In its first year, it was monumental. All the big players came out and set up booths. Microsoft was no where in sight; the exhibition hall (actually, a big hotel banquet room) was packed, and there was a genuine excitement in the air. People were chatting in the hallways, geek-speak all around, and spectators were packing into each speech.
Year two, in 2005, saw a little different atmosphere. There were fewer big companies, but a lot of local and, more importantly, Asian OEMs in the house. There was less confusion in the hallways and not so much competition for seats in the speech halls. Microsoft made a debut, and we got to be wowed by .NET speak.
As for 2006, I would rather not say much about 2006. I didn't make an appearance, but all the reports that came back to me were not positive. IDG, the promotion company responsible for Linux World, made sure to put on a show, but I hate to say it, it was probably Microsoft footing the largest portion of the tab, at least that was how it appeared. There were no sexy presentations, just a lot of talk.
I look forward to hearing some responses of people around Asia who can share their experiences. But if the Linux World is supposed to be an indicator of what we can come to expect of the future of open source in China, then it is a very gloomy future indeed.
I should note, however, the China OSS Promotion Union did a good job in reinvigorating the spirits of open source enthusiasts. They hosted an event that saw many famous OSS people giving speeches, like Brian Behlendorf of Apache, Jim Zemlin of FSG, David Axmark of MySQL, Dirk Hohndel of Intel, Markus Rex of SUSE, Google CEO Kaifu Li and Amy Zhang of Canonical.
Thankfully, the fate of open source doesn't solely lie in the hands of IDG, there are several local organizations trying to promote communication with the outside world.