14 January 2002 The South Korean government has announced plans to switch from the Microsoft Windows operating system and office suite to open source software.
The move represents a major blow to the Redmond, Washington-based giant as it struggles to persuade users in the region to stick to its software. It also follows tentative moves in Europe to switch from Microsoft to cheaper open source alternatives.
The South Korean government says that it has purchased 120,000 copies of the HancomLinux operating system, which will be enough to migrate approximately a quarter of public services staff over from Microsoft.
Hancom says that the South Korean government will save about 80% compared to the cost of deploying and supporting Microsoft software. The software to be installed is the ‘HancomLinux Deluxe 2.0’ version, in tandem with the ‘HancomOffice’ applications suite.
The move represents a turnaround in fortunes for Seoul, South Korea-based Hancom, developer of HancomLinux. In 1999, Microsoft attempted to buy the company in an attempt to acquire instant market leadership for its flagship Office suite in South Korea.
That bid was beaten off following a patriotic campaign within South Korea. But although Hancom enjoys an estimated 80% share of the South Korean office software market, the majority of installations are of pirated copies.
The high level of software piracy in South Korea – and consequent slim financial pickings for Hancom – had led the company into financial crisis and to consider a sale to Microsoft as the surest way out. The patriotic uproar led to a more palatable bid from an alternative, South Korean-based consortium.
The South Korean government deal provides further evidence that Microsoft is losing out in its bid to dominate the operating system and office suite market in South East Asia in the same way that it dominates in America and Europe.