Microsoft will release new versions of its Windows operating system in South Korea on Thursday to comply with an anti-trust ruling against the US software group.

The move comes after a South Korean court rejected Microsoft’s request to suspend a ruling made by the country’s antitrust watchdog in February, which ordered Microsoft to separate its Media Player and instant messaging programmes from its operating system.

“As part of that decision, we had six months to release compliant versions of Windows XP. So tomorrow August 24, we are releasing to manufacture customised versions of Windows XP that are complaint with the KFTC [Korea’s Fair Trade Commission] decision,” said Oliver Roll, a spokesman for Microsoft.

“These products are designed exclusively for Korea. They are only [going to] be available in Korea,” he added.

Two versions each of Windows XP Home Edition and Windows XP Professional Edition will be released, with one stripped of Windows Media Player and Windows Messenger and the other with links to web pages that allow users to download competing software products.

An official at Microsoft’s Korean unit said the existing Windows XP versions, which have been sold worldwide, will not be sold in Korea any longer.

South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission has ruled that the world’s largest software company must unbundle its operating system and pay a Won33bn fine for abusing its dominant market position.

Microsoft is pursuing an appeal against the ruling. “It will probably take a while for that decision to be made. We hope at the end of the process the high court will rule in our favour. We think that we innovate on behalf of consumers in Korea and consumers benefit from added functionality being put into Windows,” said Mr Roll.

The KFTC investigation began after a complaint by Korea’s leading portal, Daum Communications, which scrapped its objection after agreeing a $30m settlement with Microsoft in November.

Microsoft’s move in South Korea is in contrast with its reaction to the European Commission’s antitrust ruling two years ago. Microsoft was fined in July an additional €280.5m for failing to comply with the landmark ruling.

The Commission imposed a record €497m fine on Microsoft in March 2004, when Microsoft was found guilty of abusing its dominant position in the market for compute operating systems.

Brussels ruled in July that Microsoft had broken EU competition rules by failing to disclose technical information about Windows to rival companies.

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