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Swiss Court Halts Non-Competitive Contract With Microsoft 95

Posted by timothy
from the order-and-law dept.
Ade writes "Looks like the challenge to the Swiss Administrative Court concerning the government contract given to Microsoft without any public bidding was successful: The court has issued a temporary injunction (note: article in German) against the Federal Office of Buildings and Logistics (BBL), effectively stopping the CHF 14M (£8M; $15M)-contract to deliver licenses and support for software used on government computers for the next three years. According to Swiss Government practices, any contract over CHF 50'000 has to undergo a public call for offers. The BBL cited 'no serious alternatives' as the reason which this contract never did."
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Swiss Court Halts Non-Competitive Contract With Microsoft

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:44PM (#28128851)
    Why don't you just leave Microsoft alone, after everything it's been through!
    • by Jurily (900488)

      Why don't you just leave Microsoft alone, after everything it's been through!

      They're still convicted on anti-trust laws and they're still in business, that's why.

  • by XanC (644172) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:48PM (#28128935)

    If your requirement is to be able to run Windows software, then there may in fact be "no serious alternatives". Now, clearly they should step back and look at the bigger picture.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      If your requirement is to be able to run Windows software, then there may in fact be "no serious alternatives".

      A realistic goal for the agency would have been more like "run whatever software gets the job done". For every job, there's a non-Microsoft product that is at least worth consideration.

      I suspect this is simply a case of non-technical bureaucrats getting in over their heads making purchasing decisions when they should've handed it off to their IT folks (if they even have any).

      • by MoldySpore (1280634) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:05PM (#28129231)

        It is ALWAYS the non-technical bureaucrats making the purchasing decisions, since they have the money. But it is the job of the IT/Computer Techs/Nerds under their command to show them the alternatives and, clearly, state why X is better than Y.

        Sure, sometimes that non-technical bureaucrat will still go with an option that most tech-savvy people wouldn't (such as going open source), more times than not "free" + "works almost the same" is enough to get the higher-ups on board. Although the cost of retraining an entire user-base of employees on how to use Linux effectively is a much bigger step than switching from, say, MS Office to OpenOffice.

        Case and point, I did contract work for a company that had switched completely over to OpenOffice, and saved themselves a CRAP load of $, which is significant in this troubled economy. I'd be surprised if more companies didn't start doing this, especially if the economy stays in the crapper like it has been. But that same company still runs Windows XP/2000 because the cost of retraining people would outweigh the short-term turnaround. Illogical, but in these tough times it is hard to blame moves like that.

        • by Samalie (1016193) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:42PM (#28129839)

          Sure, sometimes that non-technical bureaucrat will still go with an option that most tech-savvy people wouldn't (such as going open source), more times than not "free" + "works almost the same" is enough to get the higher-ups on board.

          "Works almost the same" just doesn't cut it in the real world most of the time.

          I work in IT, and I would *LOVE* to deploy Linux/OO/etc as a way to dramatically kill my budget.

          The problem is, my accounting software is propriatary and does not run on Linux - Windows Only (and I've tried WINE, no dice on this one).

          So fine, I'm stuck on Windows, but bring in OO.

          Again, no dice...my same accounting package hooks into Office itself for reporting functions, and will not work without Office.

          And I can't make it work with MySQL, so I'm stuck with SQL Server, which means I'm stuck with Windows Server as my backend. Sure, I could migrate my other server services to Linux, but for all the Microsoft that I'm absolutely stuck with there's absolutely no reason to not just have it all on Windows.

          And I know what the child poster is going to say...ditch the sad propriatary accounting package and find an open license alternative. Well, we're a specalized enough industry that there is no way in hell I can get an open alternative that does more than 25% of what I'm doing today with my propriatary system.

          So I'm stuck with my crappy windows application which keeps me on windows and office for the frontend, and microsoft on the back end of my network.

          So its all fine and good to rally the Linux troops, and try to make inroads into the mainstream, but until they convince "real" vendors with "real" products to support Linux, its all just a fucking pipe dream.

          You do know what will happen in this specific case, don't you? The Swiss will now do an open bidding process, and all the linux/open community will bid on it, and they'll be rejected regardless of the fact that it will be WAY cheaper than the Micorosoft bid, on the sole basis that some application that timmy from accounting requires won't work on Linux, and rather than wait through 3 new sourceforge projects with 11 forks over 3 years, they'll buy Microsoft.

          I hate Microsoft as much as the next geek, I really do...but the Open community has a LONG LONG way to go before they becaome an accepted player at the table for any company/organization that can't afford to spend the time, energy, resources, and dollars to get programmers building them their "open" applications.

          • by seifried (12921)
            The problem is, my accounting software is propriatary and does not run on Linux - Windows Only (and I've tried WINE, no dice on this one). One word: Citrix.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Samalie (1016193)

              Correct my licensing thoughs if I'm wrong, but doesn't Citrix in this case, since it has to run a true Windows environment, require a Windows license for every connecting PC?

              So in this case, I can deploy Linux to the desktop, and pay the MS Tax at the Citrix level, as well as Citrix licenses, so I can do what I'm already doing with Windows on the desktop.

              I love Citrix, I've used it in the past, but I don't think I'm gaining a damn thing with this one.

              • SeamlessRDP. Install your application on one Windows server and push it to all your Linux desktops.
          • An awe-inspiring exemplification of the term 'lock-in.'

            • Don't be ridiculous - there are a lot of alternatives to Windows. Just ask any of the armchair libertarians on here who keep pretending that there are drop-in replacements for Windows just because Open Office can open .DOC and .XLS files.

            • by GF678 (1453005)

              An awe-inspiring exemplification of the term 'lock-in.'

              Believe it or not, but a lot of people actually LIKE lock-in, whether it be software or formats. The reasoning is simple - it reduces choices because everyone else is using it.

              That and the fact most people haven't actually experienced many disadvantages. Everyone uses .doc remember, nobody uses anything else (for very large values of "nobody" of course). Everyone uses Office, and they either pay for it, get a discount through their business, or just pir

              • by tsm_sf (545316)
                Your point is "people are stupid"?

                We knew that. That's an identified problem.


                ((and quit with the 'slashdot geeks lol' bullshit. You post here, you're ONE OF US))
          • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Have you ever tried calculating the real price that your company pays for that accounting application?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Sparr0 (451780)

            For what you are paying* for that proprietary accounting package, and all that MS software to support it, you could probably hire a team of programmers to make an open source accounting package meet your needs more precisely than your current package does.

            • And how long is that reimplementation to your requirements likely to take, even with an existing package as the base? Thats the problem.
              • by Sparr0 (451780)

                Say it takes a whole year. If your current budget for the software is X, then set aside an extra X this year to pay the development team. Recoup your investment in 1-2 years (depending on how you do the accounting), profit with a smaller dev team thereafter.

          • by GF678 (1453005)

            I hate Microsoft as much as the next geek, I really do...

            This part confuses me. I used to "hate" Microsoft too, until I realized this was due to me hanging around Slashdot too much. In reality, I concluded that I would have so much pent-up hate for one company it would be very damaging to me, since Microsoft ain't going anywhere. Plus, what's the point? The alternatives suck in my opinion - OpenOffice is clumsy to use, Ubuntu is useless since no matter what kernel version/Intel graphics drivers I use, it's

          • It cuts both ways (Score:3, Interesting)

            Our proprietary accounting software was built from the get go on open source OSes (starting with IBM EDX - obscure, but open source - though not in the GPL sense). Originally written for a green screen environment, it was abandoned for prettier Windows bases systems by a few clients. All the companies that left functional for pretty either went under or came back. We now have a pretty web front end, and a growing number of EDI, Web Service, and Java interfaces to integrate with other software - even Wind

          • Storm's a Brewing. (Score:3, Insightful)

            by zippthorne (748122)

            The problem is, my accounting software is propriatary and does not run on Linux - Windows Only (and I've tried WINE, no dice on this one).

            Your problem is bigger than "open source vs. proprietary" I'm afraid.

            It should matter whether the accounting software is proprietary or not, because the data itself ought to be in as flat an plain of a file as possible. Encrypted, perhaps, and even compressed (a la open document), but the actual data should be in a plain format like human-readable ascii, or easily parsed binary, where the file header holds a description of the format in human readable form.

            You're talking about ever-important financial dat

        • by icebike (68054)

          In my experience, its the non-technical bureaucrats making the purchasing decisions who typically follow the purchasing rules, and count the beans.

          It usually ends up being the IT tech nerds that try the end-run around the purchasing regs to satisfy their own pet preferences.

          And the "no SERIOUS alternative" phrase does not sound like a purchasing droid to me.

        • by sponga (739683)

          I would really like to see some numbers and facts of how you saved them money by doing a complete retraining.

          My accountant would probably get a good laugh at that.
          Also my accountant would probably laugh that he wouldn't be able to use his software on Linux.

          In tough times like these, I cannnot see how the prices of training can save you money by paying the MS tax.

          Numbers, Numbers, we need to see some numbers or else it is just hot air being blown around in the argument and jumping the gun to say Linux is rea

          • by s73v3r (963317)
            Threatening to switch will often get Microsoft coming to your door with promises of cheap licensing.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jellomizer (103300)

          I think you will be surprised how many seasoned IT guys will go with Windows other then Linux or Unix (Even if they are quite skilled with those OS's)

          Factor 1: Change may be good, but you are going to take a lot of heat from it. Say you move from MS Office to OpenOffice and they get that 1 document that doesn't load in Open Office correctly, it is your fault, and business will stop until they can get that file. If they have Office 2003 and Get an Office 2007 files that they can't open. Then it is just th

        • It is ALWAYS the non-technical bureaucrats making the purchasing decisions, since they have the money. But it is the job of the IT/Computer Techs/Nerds under their command to show them the alternatives and, clearly, state why X is better than Y.

          Did you ever ask yourself why THEY have the money? Why THEY are in charge? Because your technical bureaucrats/nerds are unable to keep an overview of the situation. Because they get lost in technical details instead of balancing various facts in their argumentation.

      • Unless they have a load of in-house systems that only work on Windows. Like a Word document generator written in Excel VBA to pick a rather horrible example.

    • by Frequency Domain (601421) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:57PM (#28129079)
      Too many idiots write specifications in terms of products vs protocols.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by macbeth66 (204889)

      I bet/hope that they are using this opportunity to call into question the validity of "be able to run Windows software" requirement.

      And to what degree does the software need to run? I have been able to run Office 2003 in Wine on Ubuntu 8.04. Some of the 'features' do not work. Like VBA. IMHO, not being able to run VBA is a feature, not a liablilty. Screw that IMHO.

      • IMHO, not being able to run VBA is a feature, not a liablilty.

        Unless your existing business operation software is a commercial off-the-shelf product written in VBA. Then the requirement becomes something like "run Stone Edge Order Manager Enterprise Edition", and the only thing I've seen do that is Windows + Microsoft Office Access + SQL Server Express.

    • by AJWM (19027) * on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:00PM (#28129133) Homepage

      Even if the requirement is to run Windows software, there may be alternatives. How will they know if they don't put it up for bid? (E.g, someone might bid a system based on Linux and Wine. That may or may not actually do the job, depending on the specific software and how much work the bidder is willing to put in to tweak things.)

      But yeah, the requirements ought to be based on functionality, not a specific software package.

    • by 91degrees (207121)
      Well, it's possible that another vendor may be a subcontractor of MS and capable of getting a lower price. They may make the argument that the specific task specification is incorrect and what they want to do can be achieved with non-MS platforms.
    • by symbolset (646467)
      Way to think inside the box.
    • Ok, so take that step back indeed and look at it: For a very low price, you get access to the largest and most complete software ecosystem in the world. Well documented software. Large availability of human resources trained in using this particular OS. Linux has its place. But not as the desktop of complex large scale companies.
  • by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:58PM (#28129085)

    Having done work for the State of NY, I am sure this happens else where.
    Fair and Competitive bidding work like this...
    You need a job to be done.
    You call the guys who you want to do it.
    They do some "Free" analysis of the problem.
    They give you the requirements as they would do it.
    They also attach the Resume of the people who they want to do the work.
    They make the bids to match the requirements and fit the resume of the people.
    They take in all the bid.
    Then they find the winning bid (which isn't the cheapest) but is a perfect match to the requirements. (which happens to be the company that did the free analysis)

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by macbeth66 (204889)

      HEH

      That reminds me of my early days of obtaining desktops, circa 1986. Anything over $500 had to go for bid, so we got bids on the parts. They assembled it for 'free'. That worked for close to two years.

    • by Jurily (900488)

      Then they find the winning bid (which isn't the cheapest) but is a perfect match to the requirements.

      In Hungary, the winning bid is usually the one who contributes the most back to the party in power.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Yes, that is the correct everyone follows. In this case, they simply forgot to pretend to open the bidding process...

    • Thanks for filling in the "???" before "Profit!". Really wish that I had mod points to give you...
    • by jedidiah (1196)

      Hey, if it is a detailed specification you at least have that document left over.

      Someone could use that as a means to determine if some other option would work
      or if some other option could be easily adapted. So even if you game the system,
      you at least have something left over that you can work with.

      Plus you kind of at least appear to want to follow the rules and appear to be
      something other than completely corrupt. "Going through the motions" at least
      beats the Mad Max sort of alternative.

    • by hey! (33014)

      Well, as is always the case in these matters, you have to consider what would need be done to fix the problem. The solution is simple: you hire enough talent of sufficient quality that you can do your own requirements analysis.

      The problem is that inflates head count. There are people who *hate* anybody who has the temerity to work for them as a public employee, and they'll go beserk when they see state government ballooning. They have some sound points as well. A larger headcount means that it is mor

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I just happened to go through "Government contracts" training nd what you describe is illegal, punishable by up to 5 years in prison for the official giving the info to would be contractors and whoever got the info + up to 50.000 in fines from persons and up to 500.000 from the corporation that improperly obtained such contract + damages and stuff.

      The rule is if you write specs, you cannot bid.
      If you leak exact specs or bid details to participating bidders you get fined and go to jail.
      (there are total of 5

      • So they don't "write" the specs. The problem is described in an informal meeting or telephone call. And a simple solution with an estimated time frame is given.
        Bob: Well we have this Old Legacy System that we need to migrate to the Web.
        Bill: Well I think you probably would need someone who has experience with the legacy system and a new technology to make it web based, for the greatest success. You know Max who works for me has these skill sets, let me send you his resume just so you can understand what I

  • by halivar (535827) <bfelger.gmail@com> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:59PM (#28129111) Homepage

    ...but it's close enough for government work!

    *ducks*
    *runs*

    • ...but it's close enough for government work!

      *ducks*
      *runs*

      You might want to also *hide* :-)

      J/K really, that's one of my favorite jokes! (The government part, not the Linux part).

    • by icebike (68054)

      Or, as we in the contracting business say...

      Close Government, Enough Work!

  • The Swiss Franc has been consistently weaker than the dollar. Right now Google says CHF 14M = USD 12.9M.
  • by Hadlock (143607) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:23PM (#28129547) Homepage Journal

    "no serious alternatives" is purchase order speak for "too lazy to look, what we have works" or "renewing contract the easy way". Many times its easier to continue with the software you have, rather than force a regime change, especially when the Microsoft Software is already factored into the annual budget. It's hard to blame them in this case.

    • by KevMar (471257)

      Sometimes it is just not that simple.

      We have one software package that we have tried to phase out for several years. We do not support it, but a hand full of users still demand it. We do not have the power to not let them have it. We tried, but it is out of our hands.

      We replaced a system that was central to the business we do 4 years ago. There were at most 5 options to choose from, only 2 were realistic options, and none of them ran on Linux or were OSS. The vender did give us a choice on database bac

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by Hadlock (143607)

        The IT we have are under staffed and over extended. There is a cost to retraining people to new products. There is a cost to replacing an existing product with something new. There is a cost to the amount of new help IT would have to provide. While you transition from one product to another, you have to support and know both. In most of these examples the product may be free but the time to do it has a huge price. More so when it currently works, users already know it, and you have bigger issues to deal wit

  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:26PM (#28129613) Homepage
    OK: I have be benefit of not knowing exactly what the tender was for, but it appears to include ''support and maintenance''. Assuming that MS s/ware is provided could not this support be provided by a local Swiss company rather than directly with MS ?

    ''Applications'' is horribly vague.

    Part of the problem with this sort of thing is that the people who write the specifications tend to think in terms of solutions, thus ''Word Processing'' is ''MS Word''. These people need to think in terms of what they are trying to achieve and to draft the specifications in those terms. This will allow different/innovative tenders.

    • OK: I have be benefit of not knowing exactly what the tender was for, but it appears to include ''support and maintenance''. Assuming that MS s/ware is provided could not this support be provided by a local Swiss company rather than directly with MS ?

      ''Applications'' is horribly vague.

      Likewise they *could* go with RHEL and get support from Redhat directly, among various other "commercial" Linux distros. They *could* have also hired a small team of college students with their Ubuntu CD's. Hell, for $15, I'd drive around installing a free OS.

  • by Ghost Hedgehog (814914) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:00PM (#28130067) Homepage Journal
    Does anyone knows how the Swiss law handles a wrongly done bidding? In the Netherlands and probably the rest of the EU, when a bidding was done against the law, the company that won the bidding may not enter the new bidding. At my old university they had this situation with the coffee machines, there was only one company that had a machine that produced decent coffee and so they won the contract. However a mistake was made in the bidding (the bidding was nationally, instead of European, contracts worth more then a ceratin amount get a European bidding procedure) and the bidding had to be done again, however the only company that could produce decent coffee was excluded and the university got stuck with terrible coffee machines.
    • by Zordak (123132)
      Well, if a Swiss temporary injunction works like a U.S. temporary injunction, nothing at all has been decided yet. The court just says, "Okay, we're going to put things on hold until we've actually tried the case." It's quite possible that the eventual outcome of the case will be that the courts says there was nothing improper and allows the contract to move forward. So it's a little premature to ask if Microsoft is going to be able to re-bid, because there may not be a re-bid at all.
    • by huckamania (533052) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:57PM (#28130895) Journal

      What a horrible system. Unless the company that originally won the bid was the wrong-doer, why should they be excluded? Sounds like something a lawyer could sue over and a bureaucrat could manipulate to game the system.

  • What are they implying here? Linux is funny? Are they calling us comedians?

  • It might just be the person who decides there are no viable option other then windows needs to be replaced
    with a more up to date (technology wise) person with aptitude for the tech department!!!

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