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Swiss Open Source Decision Going Microsoft's Way 105

Posted by timothy
from the or-else-we-bank-secretly-elsewhere dept.
hardsix writes "The recent legal wrangling between a group of open source supporters led by Red Hat against the Swiss government's decision to award an IT contract solely to Microsoft appears to be going Microsoft's way. A Swiss lawyer close to the case claims that a preliminary ruling has rejected the open source group's request to overturn the Microsoft contract however the case is still ongoing and there is still room for appeal. 'The Administrative Court hasn't made its final ruling yet but even if it finds in favor of Microsoft, there is still room for appeal. No matter what the ruling will be, an appeal will likely be filed to the Supreme Court, whose final word will have substantial significance in the future for public authorities with regards to computing services,' said Swiss legal firm BCCC AVOCATS. Open source supporters argue there has to be real political will for open source projects to succeed in the public sector."
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Swiss Open Source Decision Going Microsoft's Way

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  • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:21PM (#28965191)
    If they look at the options and decide they still want Windows then let them buy Windows. The Windows platform does has a lot of advantages like a huge software library (especially well supported by commercial software), existing user familiarity, and the Office suite. If Red Hat isn't a good fit for their needs then where's the problem?
    • by MediaStreams (1461187) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:31PM (#28965301)

      Did you bother to read the actual articles? The issue is the fact that a single vendor was handed a contract without competing bids.

      So, no, they didn't 'look at the options'.

      • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:47PM (#28965557)
        Yes I did. They decided that there would be no point to accepting bids because Microsoft was the only vendor who had a product that could meet their needs. They did look at the options, and they decided that Microsoft had no competitors who could meet their criteria.

        Keep in mind that others do have different views than us and can make an informed decision without coming to the same conclusions...
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by s73v3r (963317)
          If they didn't open it up to a public bidding process, then they have no idea what possible solutions were out there that could fit their needs.
          • by rastilin (752802) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @07:09PM (#28965761)

            If they didn't open it up to a public bidding process, then they have no idea what possible solutions were out there that could fit their needs.

            You're assuming the Government's IT department is completely ignorant of the world outside their doors; is it seriously plausible that they wouldn't know their options?"

            • by tsm_sf (545316)
              Yes, but you do know why most government contracts (no matter what country you're in) are opened to bids, right? There's a reason things are done differently when public money is involved, and it has nothing to do with politics.
              • by Muad'Dave (255648)

                ...things are done differently when public money is involved, and it has nothing to do with politics.

                I would say politics is the very reason things are done differently when public money is involved; specifically the elimination of political graft and favoritism from the process.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                You're assuming computing platforms are a commoditty. Here in Brasil, some government branches have the opposite policy. And I think it's fair. It's a strategical decision of buyers if they will stick to Open Source, Closed Source or if they will always consider both alternatives.

                Open Source is as commercial as Closed Source. You have real money involved in it, it's just a different product offering.

                It's funny that people insist on always bidding, when "smallest price" is some of the reasons most softw

            • by sumdumass (711423) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @12:11AM (#28968059) Journal

              I don't think the correlation to that can be easily drawn. Of course the recommendations of the Government's IT departments would have in impact on the requirements but without an open bid, they do no know what is availible from who that could meet those requirements.

              The open bid process is supposed to make sure that governments using public monies usually derived from taxes are not squandered, wasted, or used to benefit someone's outside interest. There is no assurance of this no matter how intelligent or unintelligent you believe the government IT departments to be without an open and public bidding process. You are inferring that their judgment is proper and it should play a role in the process but for all we know, the decision could be because someone wants to see their MS stock rise before they sell it. You are making a leap in claiming their competence and meeting criteria more so then the inference that they are ignorant of alternatives. You have no idea what the motivations are and at least with an open and public bidding process, they will have to justify their decisions with sound and verifiable facts. OF course this doesn't limit the benefit someone might see from a jump in stock prices or some kickback scheme hiding somewhere but it will how strong the justifications are that will both increase competition in the future as well as point to potential conflicts when the sole justification can be "we will have to educate out techs if we go with something else" or "i like the ribbon in MS office".

              • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

                by Yfrwlf (998822)
                Good essay. I find it easier to simply say: several governments around the world have adopted Linux, there's no reason the Swiss government couldn't as well.

                Oh, and also, STFU Microsoft shill. ^^

                P.S., All governments should adopt open source policies, regardless of what software they choose exactly, and there is no question about that AT ALL. You don't have a zillion different branches of your government each pay $$$$$ for closed source software, that's just lame beyond belief. You instead pay mone
                • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

                  by Anonymous Coward

                  I'd rather people just go with what gets the job done, and best meets their needs, the saving on cash arguement really doesn't hold anymore, since the Munchen debacle has shown quite clearly that Linux stands to cost considerably more than Windows.

                  You can pretend this is about keeping government spending in check, but it's a front, a thinly veiled one, at that - You're just intent on pushing the foss agenda - I know it, and you know it, the fact that you make it into an issue of open vs closed makes it pain

                  • by Yfrwlf (998822)
                    Yes I have a huge agenda and just went insane for a while, but now I'm sane again and Linux and open source software are, no doubt about it, more expensive than closed proprietary source code. Companies and individuals working together to create software, or anything really, is completely impossible. They can't even work together to get a road built! Just look at the pyramids for instance, one of the great wonders of the world, definitely built by one individual no question about it, just like all the ot
                    • by gadabyte (1228808)

                      when proselytizing for open source, you might want to avoid comparisons to slave-built structures.

                    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                      by s73v3r (963317)
                      Actually, its been shown that the Pyramids were largely built by Egyptian farmers. They would plant their crops, go work on the pyramid for a while, then go back to harvest their crops.
                • by RockDoctor (15477)

                  All governments should adopt open source policies, regardless of what software they choose exactly, and there is no question about that AT ALL. You don't have a zillion different branches of your government each pay $$$$$ for closed source software, that's just lame beyond belief. You instead pay money to developers to either make something, or improve upon existing software

                  Being a pedant, this isn't necessarily true. Once your government (and by implication the population it serves and that population's GN

                  • by Yfrwlf (998822)
                    If all governments and organizations and institutions adopted open source, there would be either a) everything anyone needed or b) hardly any work to do to improve some open source software to meet someone's needs. So no, I don't agree, because open source means communicating and working together, and even a dinky independent one-horse-town government could work alongside a much bigger community on a project. You're right in that if there was something that didn't exist, and if no one could communicate an
                    • by RockDoctor (15477)

                      If all governments and organizations and institutions adopted open source, there would be either a) everything anyone needed or b) hardly any work to do to improve some open source software to meet someone's needs. So no, I don't agree, because open source means communicating and working together, and even a dinky independent one-horse-town government could work alongside a much bigger community on a project.

                      This would be true if and only if everyone who wished to get involved in politics was also at least

                    • by Yfrwlf (998822)
                      IT departments would migrate to ones with one or more developers, or the IT director's jobs would include knowledge about open source projects and about investing some of their IT budget in those programs for support and development. It's quite simple...really...the company I work for is doing that. It's especially easy migrating from closed source software, because (way too much) money is already allocated for software, so using something free and using some of that money to pay for support/development i
                    • by RockDoctor (15477)

                      I've seen how crappy closed source software companies make millions, and those days are numbered. Their CEOs can kiss their 20 mansions goodbye.

                      I work for a closed-source company which is about 2/3 software : 1/3 non-computing services. While our turnover is in the millions and we're a private company (i.e. shares are not publicly traded), the last time I went past the BigBoss's house, it was still a council house. He probably owns it, but it's not what anyone would call a mansion.
                      Yes, we do use open sourc

              • Your argument from the point of waste suffers from a number of fallacies in this case. If the government deduces that there is no possible conclusion reached through the bidding process than the one it has selected, then holding the bidding process will only add to government waste -- the very thing you are arguing to prevent.

                When the U.S. military started the off-the-shelf program and allowed less bidding and more self-determination, the days of the $300 hammer ended. Sometimes removing the bidding process

                • by sumdumass (711423)

                  Your argument from the point of waste suffers from a number of fallacies in this case. If the government deduces that there is no possible conclusion reached through the bidding process than the one it has selected, then holding the bidding process will only add to government waste -- the very thing you are arguing to prevent.

                  Actually, no. My argument on waste is supported by numerous real life accounts of it actually happening as well as the main point- transparency to reinforce the idea to the public w

            • by Dustie (1253268)

              You're assuming the Government's IT department is completely ignorant of the world outside their doors; is it seriously plausible that they wouldn't know their options?"

              That would fit most government IT departments in the world so why not this one.

        • by cgenman (325138)

          Any other company could have provided support and maintenence for windows desktops. I assure you, unless they are a three-initial-company, they would probably do it much cheaper and better, too.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by rolfwind (528248)

          They decided that there would be no point to accepting bids because Microsoft was the only vendor who had a product that could meet their needs. They did look at the options, and they decided that Microsoft had no competitors who could meet their criteria.

          When your criteria becomes "Microsoft", it's hard to have other vendors, no? It's sort of like putting out the bid out for a new Toyota or chicken but with KFC's blend of 11 secret herbs and spices, and being astonished that only one or two companies can

        • If your requirements list includes the phrase "Microsoft Office" I'd argue that doesn't exactly count as looking at options either.

          • by hairyfeet (841228)

            More likely they have plenty of proprietary apps and data tied up in proprietary formats and switching to FLOSS would be a royal PITA. It all comes down to cost. Linux can be "free as in beer and freedom" but if it will cost me millions and who knows how many man hours to get all that data switched and retrain all those workers? You'd have to be insane to switch.

            If you want to switch a giant org like that, you start small. Firefox instead of IE, OO.o instead of MS Office, things like that. But trying to

            • More likely they have plenty of proprietary apps and data tied up in proprietary formats and switching to FLOSS would be a royal PITA

              This sounds like an EXCELLENT reason to switch. Do you suppose that problem gets larger or smaller by ignoring it?

              • by hairyfeet (841228)

                Let me know when you try that, because I would like your job when they fire you. Ever hear "Rome wasn't built in a day"? Or "phasing out"? You don't just dump an IT infrastructure that size with tons of data into some completely different (and possibly catastrophically incompatible) new system all it once, as it would be suicide. You work up a migration plan, probably on the order of years. You begin by having them save new data in a long term format, like PDF, and possibly have users begin migration test c

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by arose (644256)

          They decided that there would be no point to accepting bids because Microsoft was the only vendor who had a product that could meet their needs.

          Not surprising when you write the whole big basically describing Windows without mentioning the name, I've seen bids like that, they are written with the intention of not having to look at anything else.

        • It doesn't matter what they where thinking they have to officially weigh the options in a bidding process. This is required by EU rules to mandate more competition with government projects.
        • by Res3000 (890937)

          No no no! They didn't say Windows was the only vendor, but replacing Windows with another OS (Linux in this case) isn't feasible.

          The cost to renew a contract with Microsoft is only the cost of the contract, the cost to change to Linux would be way higher, since you have to replace your whole application platform, teach the users how to use Linux and all the new apps, teach the techies the ins and outs of Linux etc. etc. etc.

          This isn't so easy as just installing a new operation system and be done with it. Th

          • by mpe (36238)
            The cost to renew a contract with Microsoft is only the cost of the contract, the cost to change to Linux would be way higher, since you have to replace your whole application platform, teach the users how to use Linux and all the new apps, teach the techies the ins and outs of Linux etc. etc. etc.

            This may not be the case because Microsoft likes to change their platforms frequently. Indeed they are just now bringing out Windows 7 and there's a new MS Office coming out soon.
        • by Ed Avis (5917)

          They decided that there would be no point to accepting bids because Microsoft was the only vendor who had a product that could meet their needs.

          The purpose of having a law that says 'all contracts must be put out to tender' is to not give government agencies the option to make that choice. Either you require competitive tendering, or you don't. You can't require competition except in cases where some official decided, for reasons that he doesn't have to justify, that it wasn't worth bothering with. Even

      • by TSHTF (953742)
        You must be new here. You expect us to read an article before bashing Microsoft?
      • by dhavleak (912889) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @08:45PM (#28966573)

        Well, it's not like the OSS guys are talking about options here.

        Quote from TFA: "Open source supporters argue there has to be real political will for open source projects to succeed in the public sector."

        That's political wrangling. Build a better product and the rest will follow. "Political will" is well, politics.

    • by pembo13 (770295)

      I think the problem here is that you didn't read up on the backstory which shows that they did not consider Red Hat or any company that wasn't Microsoft.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I think the problem here is that you didn't read up on the backstory which shows that they did not consider Red Hat or any company that wasn't Microsoft.

        According to the article, it was a reissue of an existing contract; so not having a tender is not necessarily unusual. If the current vendor / supplier is performing satisfactorily then they are often kept in place since ripping everything out an starting new is likely to be more expensive and introduce a while new set of problems.

        Is that right? It depends on the context and how the renewal was negotiated. From the article the Swiss government's actions do not appear unreasonable; and the response by the

    • The problem is that this deal quite possibly had nothing to do with any advantages FOSS had over MS but MS's connections. If the Swiss government made the decision for any other reason than technical merits then the Swiss have been done a great disservice.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So sitting around on Slashdot all day posting about 'Teh Power of Open Source!!!' and silly little sayings like "First they ignore you. Then they fight you. Then you win." is no match for paid Microsoft lobbyists working every day to keep Microsoft's stranglehold on Governments and Businesses around the world?

  • by filesiteguy (695431) <kai@perfectreign.com> on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:26PM (#28965235) Homepage
    I'm an OSS advocate. I use Ubuntu and openSUSE at home. My kids run Ubuntu.

    However, if a decision was made to go with lesser closed-source software, than so be it. Move on.

    Stunts such as this - bringing a lawsuit against the government - can only serve to harm the OSS movement.
    • by robot_love (1089921) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:52PM (#28965601)
      No public tendering process was made. The contract was handed straight to Microsoft. Therefore your comment is irrelevant.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pembo13 (770295)

      I'm an OSS advocate. I use Ubuntu and openSUSE at home. My kids run Ubuntu.

      What was the point of that lead up?

      • I'm an OSS advocate. I use Ubuntu and openSUSE at home. My kids run Ubuntu.

        What was the point of that lead up?

        It's sort of like how a guy will preface a racist statement with, "I have lots of black friends, but..."

      • by techno-vampire (666512) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @09:08PM (#28966719) Homepage
        "I'm an OSS advocate and I practice what I preach. However, I'm not a fanatic or a bigot. If Windows is best for the job, then use it."

        At least, that's how I read it. Of course, it's also my own position. I use Linux and I try to get other people to try it. If they're happy with Windows, or they try Linux and it doesn't suit them, that's OK with me. After all, it's their computer, not mine.

    • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @07:08PM (#28965755) Journal

      I'm an OSS advocate. I use Ubuntu and openSUSE at home. My kids run Ubuntu.

      Really? You think you are an advocate?. More like user. If a large market segment decides to award a contact without even looking at OSS and you think it is fair, you are not much of an advocate. If a private company does that, we can leave it to the market to correct it. But the government is often the only provider of some services and all its vendors to be tied to a proprietary system where the vendor has to pay (Microsoft) to play is very very unfair. Further, being government, it is much less susceptible to market forces, with its ability to tax the population and pay the fees.

      Ability to avail services of the government and to be a vendor to it without having to pay some third party fees is one of the fundamental rights of the people. How would you react if the government posts all the contract details in some private club with access restricted only to the members? Do you think it is fair?

      • Well at least the contract wasn't on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard." Seriously, you know how government contracts work? A person or group says, "I want XYZ." The organization then writes an RFP, goes to public bid, then comes up with a reason to get XYZ over all competitors.

        I'm not saying Switzerland is making the right choice, just trying to make people see common sense. If OSS is to win (and I advocate it
        • The organization then writes an RFP, goes to public bid, then comes up with a reason to get XYZ over all competitors.

          And if the RFP doesn't go to public bid and the contract is instead delivered to a convicted monopolist with no bidding at all, then there's a problem.

    • That argument's validity hinges on the assumption that the Swiss government made the decision on the merits of MS' software. I don't think it is entirely unreasonable to question the decision given a possibly cheaper route through FOSS, especially if I were concerned about controlling government waste.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Im a windows user currently, but it seems that a government not tendering its contract to the lowest bidder means it's swiss taxpayers who are the real losers here. It stinks of corruption, and its just not how you do business in the public sector.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        So every time a new system is needed it should simply go to the lowest bidder? Should any consideration be given to the questions "will it work in our current environment", or "how much will it cost to operate/maintain over its useful life"? Since 80% of the cost of a system comes after you buy it you might want to rethink your position on this issue.

        I guess you've never heard the expression "nothing is more expensive than a cheap tool..."

        • Yes perhaps "lowest bidder" is oversimplification to you, but "lowest total cost over ownership" works doesn't it? If you RTFA, you will discover that the contract was in fact never tendered at all, so that minor point is irrelevant.

          regardless of any of that the government must manage its finances in a transparent manner, in order to assuage suspicions of insider trading and the like, was the person you arranged this deal a Microsoft shareholder?

          • Die Bundespr&#228;sident, ist jetz die "H. Hans-Rudolf Merz" der Decider und der K&#228;ufer, einfach
          • by mpe (36238)
            Yes perhaps "lowest bidder" is oversimplification to you, but "lowest total cost over ownership" works doesn't it?

            Remembering that many so called TCO assessments do not even make a "good faith" attempt at measuring.

            If you RTFA, you will discover that the contract was in fact never tendered at all, so that minor point is irrelevant.

            Thus the contract is null and void.
      • The government is run by people. Let's face it, most people don't have a clue about GNU/Linux or FOSS. Most "technogeeks" may have heard of it, but the majority will be using Windows variants because it is what they learned in school.

        I run a systems development group. Of my 13 staff members, I have one who consistently uses GNU/Linux. One of our tech support people will use UNIX but thinks Linux is a "toy" used by hobbyists.

        I am slowly migrating servers over to SLES from MS 2000 and 2003, simply because my
    • by DrYak (748999) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @07:37PM (#28965991) Homepage

      However, if a decision was made to go with lesser closed-source software, than so be it. Move on.
      Stunts such as this - bringing a lawsuit against the government - can only serve to harm the OSS movement

      Well, the problem is that things shouldn't work that way in here Switzerland. The government can NOT just "make a decision". According to the law, our government should open a bid and then select ONE solution among SEVERAL offers*.

      Instead, the government didn't follow the normal procedure. They just went directly to Microsoft. This is not the correct lawful procedure. They can't make a decision, they have select it among several offers. (Even if in the end Microsoft is the the one picked up, due for example to a larger available library of commercially supported software).

      ---

      *: Some sectors (like the Swiss Army) are even required to always pick up at least TWO solutions from TWO different providers to avoid monopolies.
      As an example, there was some unrest because both national Swiss army knife producer, Victorinox and Wenger merged (V bought W). And thus there's only 1 single monopoly left to provide one of the most widespread piece of cutlery in the Swiss army's equipment.
      (Also back during the cold war when sourcing from a foreign producer, the army had always to find two neutral solutions : either one from either side of the curtain or from a neutral 3rd party. Never 2 from the same side, in order to keep balance and neutrality).

      • by omb (759389)
        Nicht gesetzlich und m&#246;glicherweise verdorben.

        Short of collegial corruption this will be overturned, though challenging the Government here is hard. Especially if you dont speak Swiss German.

        But, this violates Swiss law (gesetz) and the Swiss-EU bi-lateral accords dealing with with competition and the single market.
      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        Wow, the Swiss Army actually CARRIES Swiss Army knives? I always thought that was just some clever marketing.
  • is very unfair and totally unacceptable that the Swiss Goverment by means of a legal court puts Microsoft in his top priority to enable his IT contract instead of taking OpenSource, on the other hand, MS fear and frustration of staying has the top software vendor is gonna cost him dearly

  • I've never been able to understand why these type of cases (ones that will be appealed no matter what) aren't taken directly to the highest courts. It's a waste of time and money.
    • If every case you describe at the lower levels were taken up to the higher courts, they would most likely be swamped. There is also the fear that the wrong decision at a higher court is far worse than a bad decision at a lower court and considering MS's history in court cases, it may very well be a good idea to discourage taking this to the top for now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by amorsen (7485)

      Because the lower court does a lot of work which the higher court just has to review. You don't start over from scratch.

  • The Swiss will find themselves up a creek with Microsoft and they will regret this decision. I so recall the days of fighting to understand the one and only explanation of some process that I had found on MSDN. That was only choice so I had to just grok it there. When I moved over to the Java world eons ago, I found every issue or question had dozens of answers and so no problem was unsolvable. The Swiss are entering a special circle of hell called: Sole Vendor...
    • by TSHTF (953742)
      Maybe I've been smoking crack, but I find the resources on MSDN to be more than adequate, if you can find the proper one. The shortcomings of MSDN tend to relate to search and relevance IMO, but the information is out there.
      • Well--full disclosure on my part. I have not really used any of the MS tools since 1998 when I switched to Java. I used VisualStudio a lot and even VB6. I just found it maddening to have a single resource. If you lucked out and the MSDN author was competent then great. But often, the person who wrote the one and only resource on this subject--in MSDN--couldn't explain their way out of a paper bag. When you get in the Java world, you always find competing resources. Eerily echoing the current health care deb
  • sigh (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It's interesting to sit through many multi-million RFP's and having a unix/linux background as I have when it gets right down to it. Red Hat and many of the unix/linux solutions typically are at a disadvantage when it comes to real integration and functionality in the the long run. Yes sometimes the come in under cost but over the long haul they are many times more costly. One thing we almost never really care in the decision making is what the platform is we decide on features,supportability and cost.

  • Open source supporters argue there has to be real political will for open source projects to succeed in the public sector

    In the article, it was one person who said that--an official of the Munich LiMux project. I can see why one might want to just attribute it to "open source supporters" rather than associating with that ongoing clusterfuck of a mismanaged Linux migration.

  • by xaboo (1599655)
    I thought it was reasonable to go with their own software, Isn't that why Microsoft purchased Switzerland in the first place?!
  • French company Dassault Systemes has announced that Catia V6 will only be available for Windows, whereas their chief competitor Siemens NX has released it for linux, MacOS, and (still) some unix flavors. Did m$ pay off D'assault Systemes (as well)?

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