South Korean antitrust regulators said on 7 December that Microsoft committed unfair trade practices by tying its Windows operating system to its instant messaging software and Windows Media Player.
Microsoft was fined $32m and ordered to sell a version of the OS that excludes IM and Media Player.
Microsoft said it would appeal against the decision, which would force it to stop selling its standard version of Windows in Korea. According to Gartner, software developers should prepare in case the ruling is upheld on appeal.
"If the ruling is upheld, Microsoft would have to withdraw its current version of Windows from South Korea. There would no longer be a single consistent version of Windows globally. Even the EU allowed Microsoft to sell its standard version alongside a modified version," said Dion Wiggins, research vice president at Gartner.
Wiggins went on to explain that the Korean ruling could have other consequences such as PC vendors being forced to offer both versions of Windows, which would incur the costs of creating a new 'build' and testing their systems.
"The exact nature of any new versions of Windows has not yet been defined. A version that has additional features, such as promotions for third-party products, rather than a reduced version, would keep Windows consistent and would affect fewer applications," added Wiggins.
"Microsoft faces a small fine that would have no major effect on the company. The two versions of Windows would require minor adjustments. No Windows code change would be needed, since these applications could be uninstalled anyway. Other products could be promoted via a simple HTML page. Testing of the new versions would delay shipments to South Korea."
Gartner expects that Korean end users would see "no real effect" other than a possible minor delay in getting new versions of Windows.
However, the analyst firm pointed out that the implications would be much more damaging for software developers which make applications that integrate with Media Player or IM. Such firms would have to modify their applications to check that they are installed.
"Developers may incur small costs to update their code to these best practices. Developers that follow good coding practices and check for valid versions of companion software will not be affected. If the companion software is not installed, the application should provide a link to download and install the software," Gartner stated.
The analyst firm advised software developers in Korea to ensure that their products have appropriate checks for valid companion software.
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