EU to consider buying open-source software

BRUSSELS: The European Commission will propose to buy more of its computer software from open-source developers, a commission spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The move is a potential setback for Microsoft, the world's largest software maker. The company is trying to prevent an increasing number of defections by governments from its proprietary software toward software from open-source developers, who are allowed to modify the software source code, or underlying instructions.

However, can one really wonder that users are switching to Open Source software seeing that Windows has been plagued by viruses, and especially the exploits and the ongoing need for patches after patches, and let us not even talk about Vista and IE7.

"There is a growing pressure on the commission to promote open-source software," said Carlo Piana, a lawyer for the Free Software Foundation Europe, which represents open-source developers.

The Dutch government announced in September that it would favor "open standards" when purchasing desktop software. Singapore stopped using Microsoft's Office software in 2004 and Munich has decided to use the Linux-based operating system rather than Microsoft's Windows program. The French Gendarmerie too, as far as ICT Review is led to believe, went over to open source software, Open Office on Windows and also to Linux OS with Open Office, and, so we understand, the city of Vienna too went over entirely to open source.

Jesse Verstraete, a Microsoft spokesman in Brussels, declined to comment.

The commission will soon release a "strategy paper" on using more open-source software, said Valerie Rampi, a spokeswoman for Siim Kallas, the European commissioner who is responsible for administrative affairs. The paper will say that open-source software should be pursued provided it does not cost more and is in the best interest of European citizens, she said.

The commission, with about 32,000 employees, mainly in Brussels, has made several steps to use open-source software for its administration.

But Piana, of the Free Software Foundation Europe, said the adoption of the software by governments had been slow. "There is a gap between proposals and the adoption. It takes time to implement the policy," he said.

And, as we know that have any dealing with the public sector and with industry, it can take a long while, especially with CIOs that are set in the Windows ways. Some, it would seems, are in the pay of Microsoft the way they will not even consider anything else.

The move comes as the commission pursues two new antitrust cases against Microsoft. EU regulators opened investigations in January into whether Microsoft was using its dominance in word processing and spreadsheets to thwart rivals, and into whether the company illegally tied an Internet browser to Windows.

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), March 2008