Microsoft has told South Korea that if the KFTC (Korean Fair Trade Commission) forces Microsoft to remove code or redesign Windows for the Korean market, it might withdraw Windows from the Korean market. In response, Linspire has offered to license every Korean computer with its Linux operating system.
Microsoft had threatened to remove Windows from Korea because the KFTC has been investigating allegations that Microsoft has breeched Korean antitrust laws by incorporating services its instant messaging client and media player into Windows
The KFTC is expected to rule on these allegations in late November. A preliminary KFTC report is believed to go against Microsoft. If the KFTC upheld such findings, it is expected that it would require Microsoft to unbundle these applications.
In the past, Microsoft has reluctantly unbundled its media player from Windows in Europe after losing similar cases. Microsoft has also, in the face of competition from the Linux desktop, started releasing XP Starter Editions in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. These cheaper versions have less functionality and fewer features than XP Home or Pro.
In the case of Korea, though, Microsoft is playing hard ball.
Korean journalist Kim Tae-gyu speculates that this is because, “Microsoft has gone all-out to win because the case is significant to it. This is the first antitrust ruling it has faced in Asia, Microsofts emerging market.
Linspire Inc., long a thorn in Microsofts side under its former name of LindowsOS, has seized the opportunity to once more gain marketing clout at Microsofts expense by offering to “license every computer in his nation with Linspire and all the software theyll need for basic desktop and laptop use for only U.S. $5 million.”
In an open letter to South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, Linspire president and CEO Kevin Carmony, said, “Considering Microsoft posted sales of U.S. $224 million in Korea for 2004—which, by the way, was less than 1 percent of Microsofts total global revenue of $37 billion—South Korea could save around a quarter of a billion dollars.”
Linspire provides Korean support for its Linspire Five-0 Linux operating system as a basic settings program. The company also provides Korean translations of Linux How-Tos and FAQs.
Carmony has also offered to fly to Korea to demonstrate Linspire Five-0s strengths and its compatibility with Korean legacy file types.
Linspire, however, might find it hard going in Korea. The former head of Microsoft Korea, Ko Hyun-jin, is now president of the government-sponsored Korea IT Industry Promotion Agency and is an avid supporter of Linux.
However, Kos first interest is in boosting Koreas own software industry with Linux and open-source programs. Thus, if Korea does react to Microsofts threat by making a strong Linux move, Korean Linux companies would be much more likely to be awarded any companies. These include Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, Web Data Bank and Mitzi Research Inc.