For computer makers, China has been a bit of a "closed system." With a billion people and only an $800 million market (chart), most foreign computer and software makers have yet to penetrate it. That's why Unix Systems Laboratories (USL) Inc. feels it's a big deal that its Unix "open systems" software has been sanctioned by a consortium of six leading Chinese technology companies plus a leading Hong Kong software maker. Together, they account for more than 60% of all microcomputers and software sold on the mainland.
As part of the agreement, USL, based in Summit, N.J., formed a joint venture with the Ministry of Machinery & Electronics, which sets technology standards in China. USL, which is 68% owned by AT&T, says a Chinese version of the Unix System 5 operating system beat out rival products from IBM and Microsoft Corp. The deal could open the market for Fujitsu, NEC, Unisys, Olivetti, and AT&T's NCR unit, all of which sell USL's Unix with their hardware.