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Red Hat Sues Switzerland Over Microsoft Monopoly

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£8 million a year to Microsoft, with no public bidding. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, say open source activists

Linux vendor Red Hat, and 17 other vendors, have protested a Swiss government contract given to Microsoft without any public bidding. The move exposes a wider Microsoft monopoly that European governments accept, despite their lip service for open source, according to commentators.

The Red Hat group has asked a Swiss federal court to overturn a three-year contract issued to Microsoft by the Swiss Federal Bureau for Building and Logistics, to provide Windows desktops and applications, with support and maintenance, for 14 million Swiss Franc (£8 million) each year. The contract, for “standardised workstations”, was issued with no public bidding process, Red Hat’s legal team reports in a blog – because the Swiss agency asserted there was no sufficient alternative to Microsoft products.

Red Hat and others have made the obvious response that there are plenty of alternatives to Microsoft, and the current situation makes them more attractive than ever, according to a report issued this week by Freeform Dynamics.

“It’s not just Switzerland who have been getting away with this kind of nonsense,” said Mark Taylor of the UK-based Open Source Consortium, adding that much of the credit for this action should go to the Free Software Foundation Europe, led by Georg Greve.

“All over Europe this kind of thing is happening, and in the UK almost all public sector tenders that we see actually *specify* Microsoft products,” said Taylor. “Even those that don’t will normally insist that the tendered for technology ties in with specific Microsoft products. I cannot imagine any other area of Government procurement where this practice would be allowed.”

Governments are tacitly accepting Microsoft’s monopoly on their ICT systems, said Taylor, despite public statements such as the UK’s recent announcement that it could save £600 million a year with open source said Taylor: “The cost is phenomenal,” he added, with Government spending billions a year on proprietary systems. “It is a scandal and a waste of public money that makes the MPs expenses scandal look like a drop in the ocean, and yet hardly anyone talks about it!”

The challenge to the Swiss government “raises important issues of openness in government and of a level playing field for open source and other competitors of Microsoft,” said Red Hat’s legal team. “Red Hat is seeking a public bidding process that allows for consideration of the technical and commercial advantages of open source software products.”

Even within Switzerland, Red Hat countered the bureau’s argument, by pointing to several Swiss agencies, including the City of Zurich, the Federal Agency for Computer Sciences and Telecommunictions (BIT), and the Federal Institute for Intellectual Property (IGE), who are Red Hat customers.

Microsoft’s European chair, Jan Muehlfeit recently boasted to eWEEK that Microsoft effectively owns 40 percent of all Europe’s IT, on the occasion of a giant promotional event with the EU in Brussels.

European ignorance and hostility to open source and free software is such that a group has launched a pact for candidates in the forthcoming European elections to sign,.pledging support for free software.

  1. Hmmm. Let’s see. The government [probably] uses Windows right now and they want to stick with Windows. Last I checked, there is only one Windows OS. On the other hand, if they had Linux already, there are many distros out there.

    If Red Hat could supply the government with Windows support why don’t they? :-)

  2. This is not about Windows vs Linux. Windows releases new version of Windows every 4 years which employees have to be trained anyway. The problem is that they did not offer anyone *else* to bid for this project.

  3. Ok…this is really getting out of hand. Red Hat is suing because the Swiss Govt. decided to choose Microsoft and did not choose to “bid” the contract.

    This is absolutely absurd! So are you going to sue people for deciding that they want a Saturn without looking (or bidding out) other cars?

    Come on guys! I use open source, but this is a bit childish.

    While open source has some good alternatives, in many cases it does not compare to some of the Microsoft or commercial packages. Sorry if the truth hurts, but sometimes you have to choose what gets the job done.

    Linux is does not meet everyone’s needs and falls short in many areas. It is still a geeks OS and while you can get it to bend and shape to meet certain needs, Microsoft (Apple, Adobe,etc) meets the needs of most every user.

    I am sorry but grow people.

  4. How can you say that unix/linux is childish?!?

    Did you try to compile something in the shell?

    The problem is about available applications. Almost every companies keep focusing only on microsoft OS…

    If something is childish, be sure is it Dynosaur Microsoft.

    98 % supercomputers in the world working on unix/linux systems…

    Be grown…


  5. There was no bidding process, okay. It’s illegal to give contract of that amount without bidding process, right. But don’t you think that in this case, the government saved us – open source vendors or consultants – a lot of burden? What’s the point in bidding for something that will anyway get attributed to Microsoft, because a guy behind a desk will ensure to properly weight his evaluation matrix in order to backup the choice of the vendor he already decided to go with or his boss told him to choose? I don’t think that there is any point. As long as open source vendors will not offer free training in a paradise highland with each release of a product, purchasing will continue to go proprietary.

  6. 2 Me: This isn’t about suing some people. This is about suing state administrative spending taxpayers money. Taxpayer has the right to have his money spent in the most efficient way. Giving contract out of bureaucratic decision is certainly not the most efficient way. Could be that the Microsoft solution would be the cheapest, at least on short term (on long term I doubt it). But still it’s not some state bureaucrat who should decide only upon his personal preferences and laziness. In fact, it’s not only Red Hat who should sue but also the Swiss citizens whose money is handled in a dodgy way.

  7. whether you’re pro os or not, or anti ms or not, the point is the following:

    there is a legal procedure to evaluate the better offer. the better offer gets the contract. if a part of the swiss administration does not follow this procedure, then this is dodgy and needs investigation.

    that said, all reasons the administration might have had for ms could have had their weight in such a procedure, which makes not very understandable indeed why they didn’t follow the official and legally sound procedure.

    this is simply not the transparency the taxpayers are entitled to. this transparency will not have to be established by a body of jurisdiction.

  8. I am a swiss tax payer and I am happy such illegal behaviour are pointed out. Companies such as RedHat, Mandriva, Canonical, Novel, and others should certainly be able to come up with economically valid offers.