EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

10.29.07

Microsoft’s Exclusionary Deal in the UK: BECTA

Posted in Deals, Europe, Microsoft, Novell, Windows at 6:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

BECTA: The ‘Novell’ of the British Government?

“The press appears to be portraying BECTA as a victim at the moment, but that’s not the full story.”BECTA is a government-associated body which procures for education in the United Kingdom. The press appears to be portraying BECTA as a victim at the moment, but that’s not the full story. Biased and one-sided journalism? Well, what else is new?

It is actually the BBC that offers sympathy to BECTA. Ironically, yet unsurprisingly, the BBC itself is a 'victim' of Microsoft (mind the comments int he cited page). The same goes for the British Library and National Archives, but they are not this post’s focus. In short, a lot of the British government departments are essentially in Microsoft’s pocket and they operate in Microsoft’s favour at the expense of innocent taxpayers. Just ask Dr. Pugh, who is a Member of Parliament here.

Lawmaker blasts U.K. government on Microsoft policy

“A member of Parliament of the United Kingdom has launched a stinging attack on the U.K. government’s IT strategy, saying that it has given Microsoft too much control.

John Pugh, who is a member of Parliament, or MP, for Southport and a member of the Public Accounts Committee, was speaking in an adjournment debate on Tuesday that he had called. The aim of the debate, he said, was to explore the alternatives to using Microsoft software, including open source.”

According to the press, ‘poor BECTA’ suffers from Microsoft, which tries to take over British schools. But… it takes two to tango! BECTA just plays nice due to the European Commission’s new probe, we reckon. The OSC and others are on BECTA’s tail, so BECTA must find a way out of this mess and cover its behind. Here is a quick refresher from the news (multiple sources confirm consistency):

An advisor to Becta, the education technology quango, has complained to the European Commission about its procurement process for firms to provide online learning platforms and content to British schools.

Local Authorities are avoiding the use of Becta’s framework procurement for Learning Platforms, while the European Commission has formally registered Alpha Learning’s complaint that the framework failed to comply with European regulations for public procurement.

Open Source Consortium president, Mark Taylor, has been in contact to voice its opinion on the controversy surrounding Becta’s purchasing frameworks and the adoption of open source adoption in UK schools.

In short, it doesn’t make happy reading for Becta. “The essence of our concern is that they’re saying one thing and actually pursuing policies that are exclusive,” he said. “Becta’s own research shows there are major benefits [with open source], however the reality of the framework is that it excludes both products and services.”

MP Pugh reckons shcools should support independent or open source software firms. He says, “In my experience a school is a key part of the community and as such has a role to play in the economy of that community. By supporting SMEs the local high-technology industry will be encouraged which will benefit everyone.”

Nineteen MPs have accused a government agency of restricting the procurement of software in schools.

The UK Government’s own studies have shown savings of up to 60% can be made by schools and colleges using Open Source software. Despite this clear advantage, some MPs believe the software procurement frameworks from Becta and official advice from DfES effectively locks out the us of free, Open Source software.

Mind the fact that the items above do not cover the same incident. The criticism came from different directions at different stages.

Let’s assume that everyone has already become familiar with the stories cited above. Then, and only then, can one begin to consider the most recent ‘news’, which was reported by the (MS)BBC. The BBC’s report follows recent news about BECTA unleashing a report. The response to this report is not as welcoming as the press wishes to paint it. Those who have watches this problem for over a year and even had BECTA reported to the European Commission tell the full story better:

Here is one interpretation of BECTA’s complaint.

Rather than investing time and energy into helping to promote real alternatives to Redmond’s hold on school IT, Becta is simply using the OFT as a negotiating tool. Like many organisations, Becta seems incapable of thinking outside a Microsoft-defined box.

Here is another.

“Mark Taylor of the Open Source Consortium pressure group said: ‘This is a mini-step in the right direction but what Becta is actually doing is keeping Microsoft in front of the market to the exclusion of alternatives.’ He claimed Becta’s complaint is part of the process of negotiating a new contract for the use of Microsoft technology in schools and will therefore only add to the visibility of Microsoft in the market.”

Someone should truly follow the path taken by Linpro, which is located in Norway.

Schools will no longer be subjected to Windows licensing for Linux or Mac computers. Furthermore, Microsoft has accepted to discontinue their commercial bundling which required schools to buy several Microsoft products to obtain discounts.

Linpro seems to have successfully resolved this issue some months ago, but the damage done over the years translates into a great deal of lock-in that will be hard to leave behind. Still, it’s a decent first step in the right direction. Now it’s BECTA’s turn.

Many other countries (probably most of them) suffer from the same issue and the same tricks are being played. I just don’t happen to watch the procurement process in other countries very closely. Perhaps you should.

The story reflects on the nature of the deal with Novell in various ways:

  1. Capture of authority. Novell is one of the most powerful players that contribute to Linux and open source. Likewise, BECTA instructs virtually all schools in the UK, so controlling a position of command is a strategic priority to Microsoft.
  2. Lock-in strategy. The nature of the deal with BECTA is not only exclusionary, but it also imprisons young minds (students), whose personal data and skills will be tied to one software vendor. In the case of SUSE, ‘interoperability’ limits the ability to dance from one Linux distributor to another. The same goes for support coupons.
  3. Cost strategy. With Novell, licensing agreements mean that no matter if you buy SUSE or Windows, Microsoft will get paid. Similarly, in the UK, whether a school has some PCs running Mac OS and Linux or not, Microsoft will get paid for all the PCs, assuming all are dominated by Microsoft’s operating system and pricey office suite (or fall under Microsoft’s unsubstantiated patent claims).
  4. Secrecy and lack of transparency. BECTA’s last deal with Microsoft was signed just a few of months ago and there was no public disclosure about the deal, even though public money was involved. Remember Novell’s SEC filing? Remember how it was redacted? We also had to wait for 9 months before seeing anything, only to be left with more questions than answers [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Turning to BECTA again, part of he deal was that it had to remain secret, for competitive reasons (or maybe “antitrust” outcries). This was similar to the tricks Microsoft had used to impose a “chokehold” on OEMs (that’s the word which Conlin used in Iowa when she served heaps of compelling proof).

The exclusionary deals with the OEMs would actually make a good comparison when it comes to the deal with Novell. Will anyone be interested in a detailed analysis involving rotten OEM practices and the way they relate to the exclusionary deals with Novell et al?

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

2 Comments

  1. SubSonicMan said,

    October 29, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    Gravatar

    That is why one of the first outcomes of the EU antitrust case should be forcing the unbundling of OEM PCs and Microsoft Products:

    http://www.digitalmajority.org/forum/t-23463/why-the-unbundling-windows-sceptics-are-wrong

    I see that the covert Microsoft practices hijacking high-IT-expenditure public agencies repeat themselves in every country.
    Take, for example Spain, where the proposed amendments of the Law for Citizen Access to the Public Administrations aiming at the promotion of Free Software were swiftly neutered by the Micrososft lobbies inside the Public Procurement Ministry:

    http://www.internautas.org/html/3950.html

    Or the infamous secret deal with the Chilean government by which Microsoft becomes the exclusive IT provider for software and IT-related-services.
    (And dont miss the photo):
    http://www.elreflejo.cl/wp-content/uploads/bachelet-microsoft_4.jpg
    http://www.liberaciondigital.org/blog/2007/08/carta-publica-sobre-acuerdo-ms-gobierno/

    The news in spanish, you can use babelish to translate it, I think yu get better translation than with google, which you can try as well:
    http://babelfish.altavista.com/
    http://www.google.com/translate_t

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    October 29, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    Gravatar

    I am aware of the news in Chile (mentioned here before), but the news from Spain is new to me. It’s unsurprising.

    Watch this essay that was published only hours ago:

    A Call To Accountability

    Not only do you have Teachers and Administrators who are protecting Microsoft (isn’t money wonderful?), you have System Administrators and Network Technicians that lock their heels on any movement to change the system to FOSS. Between job security, laziness and politics, Microsoft has fairly well assured itself a solid and substantial place in the United States educational system.

    [...]

    It’s your money. You’ve paid dearly for our public school system and you have the right to know how many millions the schools are putting into the pockets of Bill Gates. Wouldn’t that money be better used to educate our kids?

    I might as well press ahead and publish something which discusses the exclusionary deals with the OEMs also. Essentially, the same tricks are being played with Linux vendors, education ministries (or “governments”, to generalise a bit), and OEMs.

What Else is New


  1. Links 25/10/2014: KDE Mockups, Update on GNOME Outreach Program for Women

    Links for the day



  2. After Infecting Unity -- Successfully -- Microsoft's Partner Xamarin Wants to Infect Unreal Engine With .NET

    Xamarin continues to spread dependence on Microsoft to more gaming frameworks, not just platforms such as GNU/Linux, Android, and even permanent-state devices



  3. Taking Microsoft Windows Off the Grid for Damage to Businesses, the Internet, and Banking Systems

    Microsoft's insecure-by-design software is causing massive damages ([cref 27802 possibly trillions] of [cref 13992 dollars in damages to date]) and yet the corporate press does not ask the right questions, let alone suggest a ban on Microsoft software



  4. City of Berlin Does Not Abandon Free Software, It's Only Tax Authorities

    A Softpedia report that says the City of Berlin is moving to Microsoft Office is flawed and may be based on a poor translation



  5. Nadella a Liar in Chief at Microsoft, Pretending That His Anti-Competitive Practices Are Unfortunately Imposed on Microsoft

    The nastiness of Microsoft knows no bounds as even its assault on GNU/Linux and dirty tricks against Free software adoption are characterised as the fault of 'pirates'



  6. Reuters Writes About the Demise of Software Patents, But Focuses on 'Trolls' and Quotes Lawyers

    How the corporate media chooses to cover the invalidity of many software patents and the effect of that



  7. Links 24/10/2014: Microsoft Tax Axed in Italy, Google's Linux (ChromeOS/Android) Leader Promoted

    Links for the day



  8. Links 24/10/2014: GNU/Linux History, Fedora Delay

    Links for the day



  9. Links 23/10/2014: New *buntu, Benchmarks

    Links for the day



  10. Links 22/10/2014: Chromebooks Surge, NSA Android Endorsement

    Links for the day



  11. Links 21/10/2014: Debian Fork Debate, New GNU IceCat

    Links for the day



  12. Criminal Microsoft is Censoring the Web and Breaks Laws to Do So; the Web Should Censor (Remove) Microsoft

    Microsoft is still breaking the Internet using completely bogus takedown requests (an abuse of DMCA) and why Microsoft Windows, which contains weaponised back doors (shared with the NSA), should be banned from the Internet, not just from the Web



  13. Microsoft 'Loving' GNU/Linux and Other Corporate Media Fiction

    Microsoft has bullied or cleverly bribed enough technology-centric media sites to have them characterise Microsoft as a friend of Free/Open Source software (FOSS) that also "loves Linux"



  14. India May be Taking Bill Gates to Court for Misusing His So-called 'Charity' to Conduct Clinical Trials Without Consent on Behalf of Companies He Invests in

    Bill Gates may finally be pulled into the courtroom again, having been identified for large-scale abuses that he commits in the name of profit (not "charity")



  15. The Problems With Legal Workarounds, Patent Scope, and Expansion of Patent Trolls to the East

    Patent trolls are in the news again and it's rather important, albeit for various different reasons, more relevant than the ones covered here in the past



  16. Links 20/10/2014: Cloudera and Red Hat, Debian 7.7, and Vivid Vervet

    Links for the day



  17. Links 20/10/2014: 10 Years Since First Ubuntu Release

    Links for the day



  18. How Patent Lawyers Analyze Alice v. CLS Bank

    Breaking down a patent lawyer's analysis of a Supreme Court's decision that seemingly invalidated hundreds of thousands of software patents



  19. Is It Google's Turn to Head the USPTO Corporation?

    The industry-led USPTO continues to be coordinated by some of its biggest clients, despite issues associated with conflicting interests



  20. The EPO's Public Relations Disaster Amid Distrust From Within (and EPO Communications Chief Leaves): Part VII

    Amid unrest and suspicion of misconduct in the EPO's management (ongoing for months if not years), Transparency International steps in, but the EPO's management completely ignores Transparency International, refusing to collaborate; the PR chief of the EPO is apparently being pushed out in the mean time



  21. Links 18/10/2014: Debian Plans for Init Systems, Tails 1.2

    Links for the day



  22. Links 18/10/2014: New ELive, Android Expansion

    Links for the day



  23. Another Fresh Blow to Software Patents (and With Them Patent Trolls)

    Another new development shows that more burden of proof is to be put on the litigant, thus discouraging the most infamous serial patent aggressors and reducing the incentive to settle with a payment out of court



  24. Links 16/10/2014: New Android, SSL 3.0 Flaw

    Links for the day



  25. How the Corporate Press Deceives and Sells Microsoft Agenda

    Various new examples of media propaganda that distorts or makes up the facts (bias/lies by omission/selection) and where this is all coming from



  26. Vista 10 is Still Vapourware, But We Already Know It Will Increase Surveillance on Its Users and Contain Malicious Back Doors

    The villainous company which makes insecure-by-design operating systems will continue to do so, but in the mean time the corporate press covers only bugs in FOSS, not back doors in proprietary software



  27. Links 15/10/2014: KDE Plasma 5.1 is Out, GOG Reaches 100-Title Mark

    Links for the day



  28. With .NET Foundation Affiliation Xamarin is Another Step Closer to Being Absorbed by Microsoft

    Xamarin is not even trying to pretend that separation exists between Microsoft and its work; yet another collaboration is announced



  29. The EPO's Protection Triangle of Battistelli, Kongstad, and Topić: Part VI

    Jesper Kongstad, Benoît Battistelli, and Zeljko Topić are uncomfortably close personally and professionally, so suspicions arise that nepotism and protectionism play a negative role that negatively affects the European public



  30. Corporate Media Confirms the Demise of Software Patents in the United States; Will India and Europe Follow?

    It has become increasingly official that software patents are being weakened in the United States' USPTO as well as the courts; will software leaders such as India and Europe stop trying to imitate the old USPTO?


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts