World's first 64-bit Chinese operating system released

Linux-based server software boosts China''s e-commerce industry.

The Institute of Software at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Singapore-based Donovan Systems have unveiled Chinese Penguin64, the first 64-bit operating system with native Chinese language capability.

The two parties contributed to development costs and will share intellectual property rights on the system, which is based on 64-bit UltraSPARC processing technology developed by Sun Microsystems.

Chinese Penguin64 has double-byte capacity in its kernel, eliminating the need for translation or emulation. Chinese characters, due to their complexity, require two bytes per character as opposed to one for letters in Western alphabets. Penguin64's processing capability covers input, data processing, printing and display.

Professor Li Mingshu of the Institute of Software expects the product to become a standard for government and business. "Linux has a huge following in China and the open-source nature of Chinese Penguin64 will prove to be highly popular, as end users can freely adapt it to their own needs," he says.

If Chinese Penguin64 can penetrate the market quickly, it will also be good news for China's programmers and application developers. With analysts predicting 64-bit computing will be mainstream by 2002, the Chinese software industry could benefit from a headstart.

"As well as a significant advance for the Chinese software industry, it is a major boost for the development of Chinese e-commerce and other commercial applications," says Gary Foong, chief executive officer of Donovan Systems.

Room to move

64-bit computing allows a 4 billion times larger maximum address space than a 32-bit machine and supports large-scale database, high-capacity network applications and Internet services. Sun Microsystems highlights the exponential capacity growth in the move to 64-bit technology by pointing out that the advanced 32-bit computing technology available today can manage a database that includes every person in the United States since 1977. A 64-bit database, in contrast, can list every person who has ever lived since the beginning of time - with room for more.

The release of Chinese Penguin64 to the server market will be a blow for multinationals such as Microsoft that are trying to get a piece of the growing IT expenditure in China. Microsoft announced last year that the beta version of its 64-bit operating system would be available in the second quarter of this year, but it hasn't appeared yet. The final release is expected to tie in with the release of Intel's Itanium 64-bit processors later this year.