Asian Governments Mull Windows Alternative

Saying continued reliance on Microsoft and its Windows operating system threatens their local economies, government leaders in Japan, China and Korea may be considering a plan to develop an alternative to the world’s most popular computer OS.

Newspapers in Asia are reporting that a meeting this week in Cambodia among ministers of those three governments will include a vote to back the plan. The goal: to develop an OS based on open-source and freely available software.

Such a move would underscore the desire among many foreign countries to reduce their reliance on Windows because buying Microsoft products sends millions of dollars offshore every year. The plan likely would call for native software to be used whenever possible.

Appetite Exists

The move comes on the heels of several high-profile security woes for Microsoft’s products. Moreover, analysts have long seen overseas markets as a key battleground for Linux as it seeks to wrestle market share away from the software giant.

Gartner vice president David Smith told the E-Commerce Times that the Asian governments are responding to calls from smaller software companies in their countries that are finding it difficult to compete with Windows.

“A patchwork approach probably won’t work because one of the great arguments in favor of Windows is that it’s what everyone else is using,” he said. “A regional effort would help to answer that question.”

Microsoft could not be reached immediately for comment.

Nothing New

Gartner found earlier this year that both government agencies and private enterprises overseas, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, were eager to reduce reliance on U.S.-based computer companies. After all, use of U.S. companies’ products results in significant exporting of capital.

Smith noted that even before the latest string of Windows vulnerabilities and subsequent high-profile attacks by the Blaster and SoBig worms, which wreaked havoc, especially on home users, the desire for alternatives was strong. Windows has long battled to integrate native characters into its operating system, sometimes with mixed results.

Delayed Launch?

Meanwhile, Microsoft may be backing off its already revised timeline for bringing Longhorn, its next-generation operating system designed to address concerns about Windows security, to market.

The company has not made official statements recently about when Longhorn will become available, but it already has delayed the expected launch date to sometime in 2005. More recent comments from Microsoft cofounder and chief security architect Bill Gates have led to speculation that Longhorn could be delayed for even longer.

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