India vs China: The battle begins.

Steve Hamm

There's no question about it: India has a massive lead on China in the software off-shoring game. But, behind the scenes, the Chinese are planting the seeds that could eventually make them major players in global outsourcing. On a flight from Chicago to Beijing last week, I sat next to a top Chinese programmer who gave me a taste of things to come. He's Alex Dong, a software architect and project lead who works for Objectiva. The software programming company was started in Beijing in 1999 but was sold in 2004 to an American firm, Document Science Corp. Dong's wife is also a software developer, and she works for India's Satyam. So Dong has a view into both worlds. His verdict, perhaps not surprisingly: China's coding is better.

Dong says the Indian firms throw a lot of programmers at a project rather than architecting it in the most effective way, and that they don't write code efficiently, which means it takes a lot of computing power to run the programs. "We can accomplish the same results in 5,000 lines of code that takes them 20,000 lines," Dong claims. "Their work isn't clean and well integrated."

Dong has a beef about the CMM certifications, designed and overseen by Carnegie-Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute, which the Indian outfits have used to great advantage to establish their credibility with Western corporate customers. He says they don't really measure the quality in code. And they're a huge barrier to small- and medium-size Chinese companies that can't afford the time and money it takes to win certification.

These are provocative claims. I'd like to see what other programmers and analysts in China, India, and the US have to say about it.

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