Here Comes Alternative Operating System!
Anyone with a keen interest in information technologies knows quite well what happened on July 7 in the technology world.
Government agencies and banks in Korea and the United States were attacked by cyber terrorists, who deployed so-called distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
But on the same day, a small Korean venture company dubbed TmaxCore announced an operating system it said will compete with Microsoft Windows.
``Over the past few decades, lots of competing operating systems have been developed for actual use. But in the personal computers, Microsoft is predominant,'' TmaxCore President Ahn Il-soo told The Korea Times in a recent interview.
``I don't think Microsoft is overwhelming in technologies. Rather, it has monopolized the market for a long time, choking challenges of even such powerhouses as IBM. In this climate, we decided to step in,'' the 56-year-old said.
The alternative PC operating system is called Tmax Window and was showcased during the July 7 event, participated in by tens of thousands from at home and abroad.
The long-awaited demonstration of the Tmax Window, of which public presentation has been delayed several times, was somewhat disappointing because it did not work to perfection during a short demonstration.
The user interfaces and outlooks are almost identical to those of Microsoft Windows. The usage of ``Window'' has led Microsoft to file trademark disputes.
However, Ahn said the start-up glitches will be remedied down the road before the Tmax Window is commercially launched in November.
``We are currently pulling out all the stops to achieve our roadmap of releasing the Tmax Window in November as we promised. All the bugs will be removed before then,'' Ahn said.
``Beginning next month, an in-house beta version will be tested. In October, open beta tests will initiate before the November debut,'' he said.
Operating System Shock
TmaxCore, with the help of its parent company TmaxSoft, has spent tens of billions of won over the past few years to develop its own operating system.
Asked why the small venture firm endeavors to do what even IBM or Oracle failed to do or decided not to do, Ahn talked about benefits for the whole nation on top of the company's own.
``Currently, Microsoft accounts for around 99 percent of the local PC operating system markets. This means we don't have a viable alternative to it,'' Ahn said.
``What if Microsoft stops providing services here for some reason? An operating system (OS) shock will take down the country. It really happened a couple of years ago with Windows 98,'' Ahn said.
Indeed, Microsoft raised the ire of Korean people in 2006 when the world's largest software maker stopped issuing security patches for the Windows 98 operating system.
Amid a public backlash, local newspapers claimed the measure would leave many users of the Windows 98 vulnerable to hacking or virus infections.
Microsoft Korea put forth efforts to prolong the issuances of the patches of the outdated operating system with no other countries in the world asking for such a step.
No significant incidents took place due to the termination of the Windows 98 patches, which were hardly downloaded by users even before 2006 anyhow.
However, all the kinks are widely cited in cases of how proprietary software can be dangerous when it monopolizes a market without any outstanding rivals.
``Let's assume that Microsoft plays hardball against Korea for one reason or another. For example, it might be less cooperative to the government or our small-sized entities, which want to develop its software in tune with the Windows operating system,'' Ahn said.
``I am not saying that Microsoft will cause such problems. What I am saying is, what if Microsoft does so? That's the downside of monopoly and we are trying to bring competition to the market,'' he said.
Read Deal or Hoax?
So, TmaxCore developed and will launch soon its PC operating system that it says will compete against that of Microsoft.
The punch line is now whether or not it will cause Microsoft founder Bill Gates or its CEO Steve Ballmer to sweat.
In other words, is the Tmax Window armed with enough strength to take on Microsoft, the behemoth with a huge war chests with which it has annihilated many potential competitors?
Ahn, who has spearheaded the development of the Tmax Window since 2007, is positive.
``Our priority competitiveness is the perfect interoperability. Any software or programs that run under the Windows operating system will work under the Tmax Window,'' Ahn said.
``Thus far, no other software has achieved it. But we did it for the first time ever. In addition, the price is much lower. The interoperability as well as the affordability are our ammunition to attack the time-honored dominance of Microsoft,'' he said.
What Ahn means is that even if a computer user replaces the Microsoft Windows with the cheaper Tmax Window on the laptop or desktop, he or she can open or use all the programs without any hitches.
Does it sound too good to be true? That's the point. If the Tmax Window is a hoax, it will dent TmaxCore and TmaxSoft once and for all. But if it is a real deal, it can be a grand slam and Bill Gates may have to sweat due to the emergence of an Oriental competitor.
Ahn's goal is to carve out 30 percent of the global operating system market by 2015 to become one of the top 100 brands on this planet.
``After the announcement of our products, we got phone calls from government agencies, private outfits and PC manufacturers, which want to buy our products,'' Ahn said.
``Furthermore, we have negotiated with a couple of global PC producers over the past few months,'' he said. When asked the names of the producers, Ahn refused to elaborate, citing non-disclosure agreements.
Although TmaxCore is a minnow player in comparison to Microsoft, its parent firm TmaxSoft is already established in the global market.
TmaxSoft is Korea's foremost software developer of which sales and operating profits have increased at dazzling rates since its launch in 1997.
Its sales were a mere 5.2 billion won in 2000 but the figure tripled in three years to 16.3 billion won in 2002 and jumped further to 63.5 billion won in 2006.
The Seoul-based company continued to rack up fast growth as its turnover rocketed to 85.2 billion won in 2007 and 102.1 billion won last year.
Its main business is mainframe re-hosting, or enabling firms to migrate from mission-critical IT systems of mainframe environments to a flexible open system.
In a nutshell, its sophisticated legacy modernization software and enterprise system solutions help corporations brace for the latest information technologies at low costs.
Its charismatic chairman Park Dae-yeon founded the company in 1997. After working 13 years as an IT expert in a domestic bank, he crossed the Pacific in his 40s to the United States to study there.
He returned home in 1996 to assume a professor's job at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST).
He set up TmaxSoft in 1997 just ahead of the Asian currency crisis. The firm survived the IT bubble burst in the early 2000s. TmaxCore is its research arm.