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January 15, 2007

Smells like politics

Posted by David Hunter at 7:43 PM ET.

In the battle between Microsoft and Open Source competitors, some of the most reliable allies of Open Source have been various governmental entities. The latest evidence is a European Commission sponsored study that has just reported its findings on Open Source software and guess what:

The European Commission has issued a ringing endorsement of open source software, producing a confidence-boost for businesses considering the deployment of Linux and other free software.

In a lengthy report into business deployments of open source software, published in full late last week, the Commission said that in “almost all cases” savings would be made by switching from proprietary to open source software.

The bold findings come in stark contrast to assertions by Microsoft that Linux savings are a myth.

The Commission’s work is based on detailed analysis of open source projects in six European Union countries.

“Our findings show that, in almost all cases, a transition towards open source [produces] savings in the long term cost of ownership,” said the report, which was authored by academics at the United Nations University in Maastricht, Netherlands.

I have to observe that there is actually a disclaimer that the report findings do not necessarily reflect the position of the Commission, but:

The European Commission has taken several strides towards encouraging the development of open source software.

In October, it granted €3m (£2m) towards a project, called SQO-OSS, to test the quality of open source software. And just days before, the Commission extended its open source web portal, the Open Source Observatory, to develop interoperability between applications.

Microsoft isn’t the only “closed source” company mentioned and you can read the 287 page report for yourself to judge the validity of the relevant results versus Microsoft’s efforts, but the the startling thing is that this a nominal government entity (two if you count the United Nations University) intervening in what should be purely a purely commercial squabble. Of course, to the governments involved it isn’t like deciding whether Oracle or Microsoft’s database product has a lower TCO, because it’s all bound up in a variety of political agendas relating to nationalism, capitalism, socialism, and who knows what other -isms.

Such political agendas are a fact of life for large businesses and Microsoft has proved more adept in recent years in dealing with them, but it can’t help but serve as a distraction. I’m sure the folks in Redmond will shortly be burning the midnight oil developing a rebuttal for this report and spreading the word to their customers. There’s already been some early flak suppression from the Institute for Software Choice. But speaking of political agendas, the last US election brought the Democrat party control of Congress and since many in the party were quite critical of the 2001 Microsoft antitrust settlement (e.g. here), one wonders how long it will be before Microsoft pops up on their radar screen.



Filed under Antitrust, General Business, Governmental Relations, Legal, Microsoft, Open Source

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One Response to “Smells like politics”

  1. Microsoft Weekly Miscellany, February 9, 2007 -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] Previously mentioned here. [...]

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