Local OSes highlighted as Windows 7 at end

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Local OSes highlighted as Windows 7 at end

Windows 7 support ended Tuesday, leaving an estimated one in five Korean computer users exposed to viruses and malware.

With Microsoft no longer providing security updates for the 11-year-old operating system (OS), users who want to be protected will have to buy a new computer or spend 208,000 won ($180) per machine to update to Windows 10.

For some, the crisis is an opportunity. Local operating systems are being marketed and officially pushed as a way to avoid the Microsoft universe altogether.

The Ministry of Science and ICT recently recommended companies replace their Windows 7 with a homegrown, open-source OS.

The major appeal of a domestic OS is price.

TmaxSoft, a tech company founded in Korea specializing in OS and cloud services, says corporate customers can save more than 50 percent if they decide to “reshore” their operating system. TmaxSoft offers benefits like a “3+3 deal,” which gives an additional three months for free to users switching to its OS after the first three months.

HamoniKR, from Invesume, is an open-source OS developed as a government project in 2014. Currently, more than 20 government organizations and around 120,000 people are using the OS, including the National Police Agency, the Military Manpower Administration and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Goorom is a Linux-based open-source OS jointly developed by the Institute of National Security Technology and local software developer Hancom. Gooroom is free.

Homegrown operating systems come with their share of challenges.

Since many popular applications are optimized for Windows 7, some applications may not function properly on other OSes. In the case of HamoniKR, users can run Kakao talk and MS office, but they cannot access internet banking services of certain banks. The same goes for Tmax. Kakao talk and MS office software are available on the Tmax OS, but certain graphic software and computer games designed around a Windows 7 may not. One of Hancom’s main products, Hangul Word Processor, does not work on the Gooroom OS, even though Hancom developed Gooroom OS.

Industry leaders expect the compatibility issues to slowly resolve themselves as more users opt for domestic OSes over Windows. For many years, Korean consumers have been highly dependent on Windows. In 2010, Microsoft had 99 percent of the local OS market share, according to StatCounter. While the ratio has dropped to around 88.5 percent, it’s still difficult for domestic companies to grow their own OS ecosystems.

Cho Pung-yeon, the president of Korea’s association for software and ICT, is hopeful.

“As more people switch their OS to domestic brands, banks and game developers will have no choice but to start updating software to be compatible with different operating systems,” he said.

BY KIM GYEONG-JIN [kang.jaeeun@joongang.co.kr]
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