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Red Hat Challenges Swiss Government Over Microsoft Monopoly 245

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the fighting-ignorance-with-lawsuits dept.
An anonymous reader writes "'Linux vendor Red Hat, and 17 other vendors, have protested a Swiss government contract given to Microsoft without any public bidding. The move exposes a wider Microsoft monopoly that European governments accept, despite their lip service for open source, according to commentators. The Red Hat group has asked a Swiss federal court to overturn a three-year contract issued to Microsoft by the Swiss Federal Bureau for Building and Logistics, to provide Windows desktops and applications, with support and maintenance, for 14M Swiss francs (£8M; $15M) each year. The contract, for 'standardized workstations,' was issued with no public bidding process, Red Hat's legal team reports in a blog — because the Swiss agency asserted there was no sufficient alternative to Microsoft products.'"
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Red Hat Challenges Swiss Government Over Microsoft Monopoly

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 25, 2009 @04:30PM (#28087297)
    For making an operating system that no scanners work with!!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 25, 2009 @04:49PM (#28087471)

    Do you mean windows XP? I've always had more trouble getting my scanners to work with Windows than any other OS.

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Monday May 25, 2009 @04:49PM (#28087475)

    I'm just surprised that Governments so readily lets themselves be at the mercy of a foreign corporation. At the least, they could mandate open formats for when the propietary solution is better but giving them a later option to move to something else.

    IIRC, Chinese government smartly maintains it's own linux distro.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 25, 2009 @04:53PM (#28087517)

    The article doesn't mention the reasoning behind the decision to grant MS the contract, other than

    "the Swiss agency asserted there was no sufficient alternative to Microsoft products."

    In all fairness, this is pretty much true. If they already have a Windows-based infrastructure in place that works well for them, use MS Office, Outloook, etc, for all their needs, it makes sense they'd go directly to MS rather than go through a public bidding process when they want to upgrade.
    Even if they had opened this for public bidding, could someone like RH claim that they could provide a solution that'd be 100%-compatible with the existing MS environment at a lower cost? I seriously doubt this would be the case.

  • by artor3 (1344997) on Monday May 25, 2009 @05:00PM (#28087609)

    Don't sue your potential customers. It's not a good way to improve your public relations.

  • Re:I play (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) on Monday May 25, 2009 @05:10PM (#28087683)
    So would the different distros be different properties? Cos I'm not sure how I feel about building a datacenter (hotel) on Mandrake avenue.
  • Eheh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday May 25, 2009 @05:10PM (#28087691) Journal

    By your logic, if the goverment only had Ford motorcars then GM cars ain't an alternative since their operation is geared for Ford.

    Doesn't fly my friend.

  • [snip] Group policies don't exist. [snip some more]

    Linux does things differently. Different != inferior.

  • by laughingcoyote (762272) <barghesthowl AT excite DOT com> on Monday May 25, 2009 @05:13PM (#28087713) Journal

    Actually, the sad part is there is probably truth in the parent. Somebody in the procurement department either (a) Has a report from someone in their IT Department that erroneously states that they need won't work with Linux, and therefore has to be excluded from the procurement process. or (b) Has a report from someone in their IT Department that correctly states that they need won't work with Linux, and therefore has to be excluded from the procurement process. Unfortunately, that's not a Microsoft Monopoly, in either case. If its (a) then their IT staff suck, not Microsoft's fault, and not making Microsoft a monopoly. If its (b) then Linux sucks for their needs, which again is not Microsoft's fault and does not make Microsoft a monopoly.

    Which is why Switzerland is being sued, not Microsoft. The summary is actually somewhat erroneous here, because this has little to do with Microsoft or its monopoly, they just happen to be the bidder here.

    Most government departments have mandatory open bidding processes for procurement of everything from software to roads. If they had, in violation of these rules, given a no-bid contract to Red Hat, Microsoft could've sued the Swiss government on the exact same grounds and forced them to use a competitive bidding process. If the same process occurred in roadbuilding, and they gave a no-bid to Contractor A when Contractor B also wanted a shot to bid, Contractor B can sue. So it's true that Microsoft isn't really in the wrong here, a Swiss government agency is.

    That being said, however, as to your "a" and "b" scenarios, it really doesn't matter. The way the bidding process works is that they present a set of requirements as to what the product being procured must do. Anyone who is willing to fill those requirements (either by using what they've already got or developing something new to fill them) may bid. In your "b" scenario, they would have to know not only that "Red Hat's software is currently incapable of doing something we need", but also that "Red Hat is unwilling or unable to develop that functionality." Apparently, that's not the case, since it seems Red Hat certainly does want a stab at it.

  • by Timesprout (579035) on Monday May 25, 2009 @05:14PM (#28087725)
    Way to go. Drag in a populist /. rara argument to support your bias. Are you privy to the requirements of th Swiss govt? Do you have any evidence or logic for that matter to prove your opinion?
  • Re:Eheh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by atfrase (879806) on Monday May 25, 2009 @05:23PM (#28087803)

    By your logic, if the goverment only had Ford motorcars then GM cars ain't an alternative since their operation is geared for Ford.

    Doesn't fly my friend.

    There are plenty of accurate analogies to explain this situation. Resorting instead to such a foolish and misleading one just makes all open source advocates look disingenuous and dishonest, when those are exactly (some of) the traits of Microsoft that we condemn.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 25, 2009 @05:25PM (#28087827)

    [snip] Group policies don't exist. [snip some more]

    Linux does things differently. Different != inferior.

    Please direct me to the documentation for the standard group policy mechanism in Red Hat.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Monday May 25, 2009 @05:32PM (#28087887)
    I see you are looking for excuses, not for solutions...
  • by Haeleth (414428) on Monday May 25, 2009 @05:38PM (#28087927) Journal

    It's bad either way. Even if it is true that they have something that genuinely can only be made to work with Windows as of today (and they genuinely cannot meet said Windows requirement in any way other than having Windows on all desktops), they should still open the bidding process and allow Linux vendors to quote them a price that includes fixing the problem in Linux.

    It might still work out cheaper than going with Windows, and if it doesn't, then they can still go with Windows, secure in the knowledge that there has been a fair and open bidding process to justify their decision.

    As for the monopoly argument, I don't see a problem with the term. If the Swiss government is automatically granting business to Microsoft without allowing any competitors to bid, then the Swiss government is indeed effectively granting Microsoft a monopoly. The market in question is a fairly small one, and the existence of the monopoly is the fault of the Swiss government rather than of Microsoft, but it appears to exist nonetheless.

  • Re:Eheh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Monday May 25, 2009 @05:51PM (#28088031) Homepage Journal

    By your logic, if the goverment only had Ford motorcars then GM cars ain't an alternative since their operation is geared for Ford.

    Doesn't fly my friend.

    Well, that's because your analogy is crap.

    A better might be if they only had diesel cars, and had their own filling stations that only had tanks/pumps for diesel, and someone wants to sell them gasoline or compressed natural gas cars. But that doesn't really work since in that case it's the cars (what's being replaced) that are the "important" part, whereas really it's probably what isn't being replaced (the applications) that's the important part.

  • by Repossessed (1117929) on Monday May 25, 2009 @05:54PM (#28088061)

    For 10 million (or more) dollars, I'm pretty sure Red Hat could make whatever they need to work work. The biggest advantage Linux has is enterprise installations that are large enough to absorb programmer salaries into the budget, and thus can customize the entire installation for a one time cost.

  • by omb (759389) on Monday May 25, 2009 @05:59PM (#28088105)
    Microsoft Works Tirelessly to make sure you have little glitches, by breaking every Open Standards it can get its grubby hands on, if you want examples look no further than the Kerberos extensions which they tried to NDA until MIT's lawyers pointed out that the extension was a derivative of copyright work and the laughable Excel ODF formula screw up.

    They dont want to interoperate but will be forced to do so.
  • by melted (227442) on Monday May 25, 2009 @06:18PM (#28088291) Homepage

    Have you actually TRIED using X Window, even over broadband? I have. There are several drawbacks to it:
    1. It is VERY slow, slower than VNC. It runs like a snail compared to RDP.
    2. If you get disconnected, for whatever reason, your apps die and you lose data. In year 2009 this is UNACCEPTABLE.
    3. Did I mention it is VERY slow?

  • Re:I play (Score:2, Insightful)

    by master5o1 (1068594) on Monday May 25, 2009 @06:51PM (#28088559) Homepage
    Richard Stallman aggressively recommends that everyone use the term GNU/Linux instead of Linux.
  • by DavidD_CA (750156) on Monday May 25, 2009 @06:55PM (#28088597) Homepage

    ... so, they're doing what any reasonable company would do?

    Adjust their final price, offer incentives, and taylor the product they're delivering in order to win the customer's business.

    If the customer got what they wanted, and saved a bundle in the process, and did so legally, beating out what any other competitor offered... how is that a bad thing?

  • All that's needed to qualify is self-governance for the constituent entities, with clearly defined limits which cannot be encroached upon by the central government.

    Which proves that the US is not a federation. c.f. Gonzales v Raich.

    The US was intended to be a federation, but the states have been gradually weakened to the point that they have only whatever power the central government chooses to allow them, and not one bit more. The big turning point was the 16th and 17th amendments. The 16th gave the federal government the power of the purse and the 17th liberated it from state oversight.

  • Even so, from Switzerland's perspective that's an even better reason to squeeze Microsoft by having an open bidding process that drives the price down. Why pay them $15m when you could force them to discount?

  • by samatas (1067350) on Monday May 25, 2009 @09:36PM (#28090017)
    Not Swiss!
    It is a more flexible language spoken here.
    Money law applies, actually.

    Some 15 months ago Bill came In Athens - Greece, gave a lecture on innovation [Microsoft's vision on the future of technology] as he put it.

    At the same time and roughly through the same procedure ( no public bidding process) a 70,000 win OS + office licenses agreement was signed, between Microsoft and the Greek Minster of Economy at that time, Mr Alogoskoufis.

    The motivating benefit has been 50 Visual Studio licenses for as long the contract lasts, plus an innovation portal. In other words 667.49 x 50 = 33,374,5 euros and a portal for 9 to 36 million job, since unit prices remained unclear, pending a additional agreement.
    Could you deal better?

    http://hellug.gr/ [hellug.gr] reacted (among many others notably), but not effectively.

    Full coverage (in Greek): http://www.ffii.gr/ms-gov-agreement [www.ffii.gr]
    The agreement (in English): http://sandbox.cs.uchicago.edu/blog_el/files/SPA.en.pdf [uchicago.edu]
  • by ILongForDarkness (1134931) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @04:23AM (#28092325)

    Unfortunately, that's not a Microsoft Monopoly, in either case. If its (a) then their IT staff suck, not Microsoft's fault, and not making Microsoft a monopoly. If its (b) then Linux sucks for their needs, which again is not Microsoft's fault and does not make Microsoft a monopoly.

    Exactly. Or:

    c) Their IT staff is really good at supporting Windows but doesn't know, nor care to learn how to support Linux. So they can replace all their IT staff or they can go with Windows.

    There is still a lot of software out there that doesn't support Linux at least on the client side. For example: SAP, AutoCAD, MS Office (sucks but still the best office suite IMHO) are all Windows client only systems. Sometimes not bidding isn't picking on the vendor you don't go with, sometimes it is "I know what I need, and I know only one vendor supplies it".

    P.S. I'm a UNIX/Linux admin not a MS fanboy. I just would rather see a well supported system that meets the users' needs, than have somebody go with a platform they can't support just because it is cheaper and the developers' say it can do what they need.

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