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What Cloud Computing "Stuff" Will You Sell to China?

President Obama Mention's Software's Export Potential in Casual Remarks to Hu Jintao

President Obama told Chinese President Hu Jintao, perhaps a little too casually, that the US wanted to sell him "stuff."

"We want to sell you airplanes. We want to sell you cars. We want to sell you software," the president opined.

Check and check on the first two items: China will buy about $20 billion in aircraft annually for the forseeable future, and Boeing's share of that depends more on China's dislike of the US-Taiwan relationship than any other single factor; meanwhile, everybody knows that the Chinese love Buick almost as much as they do Mercedes and BMW.

But what about selling software to China? President Obama was no doubt thinking solely of Microsoft Windows and Office when he made that statement. Despite his astuteness in having a Federal CIO who has committed to Cloud Computing, we can be reasonably sure that the highest levels of the US government are still focused on the old issues of copyright protection and pirated software in China and throughout Asia.

Subverting the Paradigm
But the game has changed. Perhaps I can extrapolate from my own experience. I've been having some "issues"--as what used to be called f---ing problems are now called-with several desktop and laptop systems. I ended up with one day-to-day computer in which the original Office installation was erased, and another system that wasn't equipped with Office in the first place.

Lo and behold, I discovered that Open Office 3.2 not only saves new files into any Office format, but opens all Office docs as well. It didn't used to do that, and sorry if I'm the last person in the world to know that it does do this now. So I have no reason whatsoever to pay this particular "Microsoft tax" anymore.

OpenOffice 3.2 is still a little herky-jerky in operation, but I must say the community that's developed it over the years has done a masterful job of, ah, "reverse engineering" all of Office's functionality. Touché indeed. OpenOffice's new owner, Larry, is still asking for a contribution in return for my download. Well, this unsolicited plug for OpenOffice 3.2 is my contribution.

What Now?
Despite many visits to Asia over the years, I've never used pirated software, although I understand that in countries where a $500 monthly salary is good (which describes most of China and Southeast Asia), the idea of paying hundreds of dollars for Office seems ludicrous, and unfair.

But it seems that, when it comes to Microsoft Office at least, there is no reason for anyone to do so. Maybe Microsoft can sell Azure in China. Or maybe Office365 if it ever gets up to speed, but I doubt it.

Open-source software is always of great interest in China, with an unfortunate and singular focus on cost-an emphasis on the "free beer" rather than "free speech" aspect of Open Source-- in the presentations I've seen and speeches I've heard. The big question seems to be how the heck can we match ongoing operating costs with the original price of zero? Guys, if you want to be world-class, you have to spend some money, sometime with somebody.

Enter the Cloud
This is where Cloud Computing enters the picture. How well is Salesforce doing in China? I've read of "robust" growth, but what does that mean? How is VMWare doing?

What are the prospects for Amazon EC2 and its competitors in China? How much virtualization/server consolidation is going on? Taiwan is committing to a massive datacenter scale-up; what's going on in China? How are all the sponsors and exhibitors of Cloud Expo, the world's largest Cloud events, doing?

And how well are you doing? What "Cloud stuff" are you selling in China? What prospects do you have? Any?

I'm moderating two Cloud Computing events in China this year, in Beijing March 24 and Shanghai September 15. I'd love to hear how you are doing, and how much of an impediment the old pirate habits have on your view of China and its prospects. Email me at [email protected] or @strukhoff through Twitter.

Gong hai xin xee!

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.