The EU Council Answers Marco Cappato’s Question About Microsoft Dependence vs. Europe’s IT Independence
Summary: A look at Microsoft’s contact with the EU, which was under internal probe again
THE NEWS about Obama and Microsoft’s Mundie was discouraging and disheartening [1, 2, 3]. The Democrats are already pretty close to Microsoft, having received funds from Microsoft [1, 2, 3]. In addition to this, adds one reader of ours: “just wanted to point out that Craig Mundie and Neelie Kroes have met at this year’s Bilderberg meeting in Greece. [...] this year Mundie gets to rub shoulders with Rockefeller.” Here is the Bilderberg attendee list for this year (or this list from a more reputable source). Let us never forget Steve Ballmer's schmoozing of Neelie Neelie. We also wrote about Mundie's visits to Europe quite recently and we know about the Gateses in Bilderberg, notably Melinda French as we once noted. Other previous posts touch on this group too [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7], but it’s beyond the scope of this short report. Slashdot drew attention to another little tidbit that may or may not have new impact:
Senate Sources Say CTO Confirmation a Done Deal
It might also be worth bringing up Chopra’s membership in TiE-DC, a group which promises ‘exclusive peer networking events’ with government officials and Federal contractors, including TiE-DC sponsor Microsoft.
Looking at Europe as we did some days ago (the Gartner anti-Linux fiasco), we find some more information about Marco Cappato, who fought for transparency and may have revealed Microsoft corruption in the process.
After much battling, Cappato obtained the study. Since it was actually written in 2005, and based on even earlier work, its conclusion are pretty worthless: they essentially say that there is no cost benefit to switching from Microsoft’s products to free, but do note that there are issues of independence involved that politicians might like to consider.
Given that things have moved on so much in the last five years, particularly in terms of office document format standards, I don’t want to dwell on those outdated results. Instead, I’d like to highlight the fact that the European Union’s bureaucracy fought to keep it unpublished for all that time; worse, the justification was protecting the “commercial interests of Microsoft”.
Watch this query from Marco Cappato (ALDE) and Marco Pannella (ALDE). They asked the council about use of Free software (not “open source”), which shows that they truly challenge the status quo for the benefit of the public.
Subject: Adoption of free software by the EU institutions
The ‘European Commission against Microsoft’ case has seen the Commission punish the US company with two fines totalling EUR 1.68 billion for abuse of a dominant position.
The European institutions only use Microsoft products (Windows XP Professional operating system, Internet Explorer web browser, MS Outlook e‑mail client and the MS Office package), and rarely are different types of software installed. According to Parliament’s IT services, this is the result of an interinstitutional choice. This generates high costs arising from the purchase of thousands of software licences, and in practice makes the EU institutions dependent on a single supplier in a dominant position, with ensuing problems as regards the accessibility of documents produced in proprietary formats and of interoperability.
The German Parliament decided in 2004 to adopt free software, as did the French Parliament in 2007, and as have other elected assemblies and public institutions.
Does the Council not consider — with a view both to sending a positive political signal as regards open source technologies and pursuing a cost-cutting policy — that it could and should:
1. conduct a study on the economic and functional cost of the current dependency on a sole software supply company, comparing this with the savings that could be made if free software were adopted; and
2. ascertain whether alternative free software exists which could replace the current proprietary software, looking at the solutions adopted in other institutions?
Here is a council’s answer from the 28th of May, 2008 (two and a half months after the question was asked).
Like other public bodies, the Council uses mainly Microsoft software. However, this company’s software is not used exclusively. It is not used, for example, for the Council’s standard e-mail system.
The Council considers that the risk of dependency on Microsoft as mentioned by the Honourable Members is sufficiently limited by the terms of the contract concluded with the company. As for the suggestion that it be ascertained whether the current proprietary software can be replaced by similar free software, or ‘open source software’ (OSS), as it is called, a study carried out by the Interinstitutional Data-processing Committee in 2005 showed that when all the costs of completely replacing protected software are considered, the result would not be a budgetary saving; on the contrary, additional costs would be involved.
Nevertheless, the Council will continue to seek solutions, including OSS, that accord best with the principles of independence, efficiency and good financial management.
Are things about to change? There is definitely hope.
Will European rules impact open source business models?
The main reform is to allow for downloading and implementation of open source without a formal tender, bypassing the expensive procurement process.
Italian activists are already fighting against inherently illegal Microsoft contracts. █