South Korea, China and Japan governments are to meet in Beijing on Saturday to start work on their collaboration to develop and nurture open-source software.
The meeting on Saturday will be the first of three -- one held in each participating country -- planned for this year. In a statement, the Korean Ministry of Information and Communication said the trio hope to reach agreement about the cooperative principle, and the methods they will use. Discussions will cover standardisation, cooperative development, technology and human resource exchange. About 30 public officers from each nation will participate in the forum.
The conference is based on an agreement that the three nations' ministers made last September to develop an alternative operating system to Microsoft's Windows software. Shortly after that meeting, Japan, the world's second-largest economy, made a proposal at an Asian economic summit to build an inexpensive and trustworthy open-source operating system that would be based on a system such as Linux, which can be copied and modified freely.
Japanese media at the time reported that the government would spend 1bn yen (£55m) on the project and endorse an open-source forum set up by Japan's electronics makers. Japan's computer and consumer hardware industry -- which includes global heavyweights such as Sony, Matsushita Electric Industrial and NEC -- have long searched for an alternative to Windows, which they contend gives Microsoft too much control over the personal computer and electronics industry. The country's trade minister, Takeo Hirunama, speaking at the ASEAN economics ministers meeting in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, raised security concerns over Microsoft's software. Citing the recent high-profile virus attacks by the Slammer and Blaster worms against Windows-based software, Hiranuma told reporters it would be useful to "pursue a new kind, a different kind, of software code".
At the end of September 2003, the South Korea government announced a plan to have proprietary software on a substantial number of its PCs and servers replaced with open-source alternatives by 2007.
Thousands of computers in ministries, government-linked organisations and universities in South Korea will replace the Microsoft Windows operating system and Office productivity suite with open-source alternatives under the plan, according to the country's Ministry of Information and Communication. The ministry said the move would save it about $300m a year and ensure security and interconnectivity of national information systems.
The Chinese government has also announced plans to throw its financial weight behind Linux-based operating systems that could rival Windows in one of the world's fastest-growing technology markets. China's information technology market is growing at 20 percent a year, with software sales expected to reach $30.5bn in 2005, according to researcher IDC.
Matt Loney from ZDNet UK contributed to this report.