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Ex-Sun chief tells HK to go open, free and global

Andy Lau, managing partner of ICG Asia Capital Ltd (Computerworld HK) | Nov. 1, 2013
Former chairman, CEO and founder of Sun Microsystems, shares his views on how to fuel technology innovation and the government's next edition of the Digital 21 Strategy -- the technology blueprint for Hong Kong currently undergoing public consultation.

Everywhere you see, somebody is inventing something new; from healthcare services to banking services, and all the way to things ride-sharing applications that are just changing the logistics of humans in a very positive way.

The second focus for Hong Kong's new strategy is to ignite business innovation through research and development and provision of open data. I know you are a big fan and believer of openness, so what is your take?
SM: I think the sad part is that when Sun got bought by Oracle, the big R&D spender at the time that was really focused on open source was Sun Microsystems. But Sun is no longer out there leading the parade on open source technology and open interfaces.

Hong Kong ought to get in front of that parade and lead the world in open source. Somebody needs to go do that.

And by fostering open source you drive competition. You drive choice. You drive lower barriers. There must be low entry and exit for new technologies which is incredibly important because technologies have very short lives, and to be able to move in and out of new technologies through open source is a huge win. So I would encourage Hong Kong and the R&D community here to adopt the open source model.

The third focus for Hong Kong's new strategy is to support a thriving ICT industry by recognizing excellence and facilitating established and emerging ICT set-ups to gain a foothold in the Mainland and the international markets. What is your view on this?
SM: My view is that standards are becoming established globally much more quickly than they were before, and you know, TCP/IP was started in the US but now the internet protocol is worldwide. Java became a global standard and it was because it was open, multi-vendor and shared.

I believe that Hong Kong needs to focus not on Chinese standards and not US standards but focus on global standards. The larger markets tend to tip towards standards that are adopted, open and available around the world.

For instance, in social media, Facebook and Twitter have become very large global standards. There are some very strong standards here in mainland China, but are they going to be global standards? And I think those are the big questions.

You want to be local, but if you are not global in this day and age, you are going to miss out in the huge long term opportunities.

So what is your advice for us and for the Hong Kong government? How can the government support the ICT industry to thrive in this environment?
SM: Well, I am certainly not the one best-placed to advise the Hong Kong government and Hong Kong has obviously got a rich [technology] tradition and a very good trajectory into that themselves. I am a believer in setting the guidelines for how companies operate and letting the private industry invest, to go at it and compete in the market economy.


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