Bonum Certa Men Certa

The Ukraine's GNU/Linux Ambitions and Microsoft's MOU Response

Ukraine flag

Summary: A look at how Microsoft responds to the Ukraine's desire for autonomy with Free software

MANY months ago we wrote about Microsoft signing a contract of exclusivity (MOU) with the Ukrainian government. Such contracts are specifically designed to block competitors such as GNU/Linux, shutting them out of the government sector altogether. We saw it happening once again in May when Steve Ballmer visited the Ukraine. The timing is interesting because of information we have just received about GNU/Linux in the Ukraine (and Microsoft's response to it). That too is based on a report from May 2009. This report is one among 2 articles, for which we received interpretation from an informant who is familiar with the situation.

"Both articles are published by well-known and trusted sources," says our informant. "I wish there were more information about this. The Russian press is less transparent than the Ukrainian, and corruption level is very high in both countries."

Here is the informant's explanation of the situation in the Ukrainian government:

I have just discovered some FUD that Microsoft spreads in the Ukraine. Basically, the Ukrainian government wants to switch to open source. Here is an announcement (Google's automated translation to English). To quote from the translation: "May 12, 2009 - in the State Committee of Informatization of Ukraine held a public discussion of the concept of state program implementation in the public administration software with open source, where officials reported on the decision to switch to open source until 2012 and the establishment of the Ukrainian distribution based OS Linux."

“The General Director of Microsoft Ukraine follows this up with an interview, where he lies about Open Source licensing schemes.”The General Director of Microsoft Ukraine follows this up with an interview, where he lies about Open Source licensing schemes. He said that if someone contributed code, that someone would eventually want compensation for this. Here is his interview (Google's automated translation to English). He also claims that there is no single country where open source adoption in the government was successful. The first claim is in the first paragraph. The second -- in the fifth. He also tells nice things about how "we need to teach kids the most popular OS/office packages, not something that a local government wanted to stick to." (this was in the 8th paragraph)

They cite IBM, Microsoft and Adobe as world leaders in software development and the guy from Microsoft, for the record, is called Dmitry Shimkiv.

The Ukrainian government is easy to bribe, so I doubt Microsoft is afraid of bad publicity in the Ukraine. Moreover, until '00 years, 100% of Ukrainians used counterfeited Microsoft software at home and at work, which made them "addicted" to it. This is why Microsoft is hardly afraid of losing this market. There is information about counterfeiting levels in the Ukraine and this is widely available from the BSA, which lists the Ukraine in the top 20 for 2008 (I believe it was in the top 5 in 2000). There is a grassroots movement to support Linux, though. It even made it into a government programme.

There are a couple points to be added to the above. First, government migrations to Free software and GNU/Linux are very often derailed by Microsoft's EDGI. Microsoft uses this anti-competitive programme to pretend that GNU/Linux fails in governments or that it gets rejected. The Gartner Group analysts, whom Microsoft is paying large sums of money [1, 2, 3], participate with Microsoft in this attack on GNU/Linux in governments. There are success stories nonetheless, e.g. in France, the Netherlands, and Germany.

Secondly, on the face of it, in the report above Microsoft also pretends to be "open source" (making Microsoft indistinguishable from rivals). This is an old, dishonest strategy.

The story from the Russian government may be similar, and it is one that we last covered some days ago following initial observations and consultation with people who are close to the scene. Russia has ongoing antitrust scrutiny against Microsoft, so all these tidbits need to be properly documented. This latest story won't do Microsoft any good with government affairs. It does not look like professional conduct; it is predatory and inherently anti-competitive.

"Government attorneys accuse Microsoft of using its monopoly position to bully, bribe and attempt to collude with others in the industry, while illegally expanding and protecting its Windows franchise."

--The antitrust case: a timeline


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