Microsoft is “IT” for many EU Governments

Although the European Commission might be proud of its record of hitting Microsoft with fines that dig deep into Redmond’s seemingly bottomless coffers, the fact is that for many European countries, Microsoft is still the first and sometimes only choice when it comes to government tenders.

As last week’s Switzerland example showed, some government’s operate on the basis that IT is basically another word for Microsoft. That means tenders that specifically call for Microsoft products as if no other alternatives exist. Hungary – where I am currently based – only a month ago agreed to put open source options on the tender list for government tech projects. Previously, government tenders would simply state, “Microsoft or equivalent products”. Microsoft has splashed its cash around the country both in terms of marketing and lobbying that it has much of the public sector sown-up, as open source guru Richard Stallman remarked on a recent visit to Budapest.

And let’s not forget that the UK only just agreed to “level the playing field for open source” software – basically admitting that up till now the game has been firmly rigged against non-proprietary software. That said – that doesn’t meant that all UK government projects are considering open source all of a sudden. The head of IT for the Olympics told me at a recent green IT conference that he had more or less ruled out open source because it was “high risk” in terms of issues such as application compatibility.

Yep – it seems that while the Olympics might carry lofty ideals of international cooperation and openness – that doesn’t actually carry to the software running the event. And it’s not like the Olympics has money to burn – the event is way over budget already by billions of pounds – you’d think that the organising committee would be looking for the most cost-effective options available. Time’s are tough it seems but not tough enough for some

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