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Why does the EU Parliament stick with Office and other Microsoft software ?

Marco CappatoAn Italian EU deputy, Marco Cappato, had the guts to ask. The reply was they were basing on a study made in 2005. He asked to them to make it public, but his request was refused. Nobody believed he could get the EU to make it public. An well known Italian IT website even called that ‘a miracle‘.

I’m going no further, I’ll just translate Cappato’s post and attach here the document for the world to see. Up to you to judge how good it is.

(not that is that the document is still super-secret, but it has been disclosed very recently and I guess you won’t have many other chances to read it otherwise)

Here’s the post:

We saw in the previous episode that the EU Parliament is a fan of “Office Suite”. The EU Commission has done a little bit better. Answering in May 2008 to an interrogation of mine, the commissary Siim Kallas declared that ‘The Commission is now able to accept and produce documents in the ODF format’ and that ‘The Commission already presented to other European institutions the technical approach to accept and produce ODF documents. Furthermore, in the ambit of its IDABC program, the Commission is working with the representatives of the member nations for the promotion and simplification of the Open Document Exchange Formats (ODEF). For further information see the site: http://ec.europa.eu/idabc/en/document/3439/5585“.

So I asked to the European Council if it got organized, on the basis of the Commission pulses, for the reception and use of the open formats. In particular, I proposed to:
1. make a study regarding the cost, economic and functional, of the actual dependency from a single software company, comparing it with the eventual savings derived from the adoption of free software, and
2. verify the existence of free software alternatives that could replace the existing proprietary software equipment, investigating on the solutions adopted by other institutional realities?

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+WQ+E-2008-1486+0+DOC+XML+V0//IT

The council let me know they think that “the risk of dependancy from Microsoft mentioned by the honoured deputies is sufficiently low in virtue of the terms in the contract with the company”. In regard to the proposal of a study regarding the adoption of free software, “from a study realized by the Commitee inter-institutional of informatics in 2005 emerged that, calculating all the costs of an eventual global replacement of the protected software, that solution wouldn’t reduce the costs, but, at the contrary, would introduce new costs”.

So I asked to have access to the acts to know the contracts with Microsoft and the so-called “study” realized

The council opposed both questions, answering that “Divulging that information may mine the protection of commercial interests of Microsoft, since those contracts establish terms and conditions that are specific and privileged for the EU Institutions”. Have we reached the bottom yet ? No. The answer on the “Study” is a masterpiece. The General secretariat of the Council, in fact, wrote to me: “our administration didn’t kept copy of that study”.

All lost (study included?). No. At the end (of the legislature) the study came.

Here it is (attached).

So, guys, it’s to late for me to read the carefully the report right now (and furthermore, it’s not just english, there are French parts). I’m putting this out in the wild so everyone can read it.

>>> DOWNLOAD: studio-free-software-cii-ep-2009-21366-annex.pdf <<<

You judge. As for me… gosh, Gartner. Gart..muwahwhawhaha. (sorry, it’s late night here ;-) )

Leftovers:

Two almost randomly chosen slides from the study

Three faces of Linux hype

Three faces of Linux hype

State of Linux on the Desktop Today (and Tomorrow)

State of Linux on the Desktop Today (and Tomorrow)

Enjoy !

17 Responses

  1. This is… no doubt important.

    Microsoft’s commercial interests? What about, um, let’s see… the citizens of the European Union? Microsoft doesn’t need to protect their commercial interests at this point. The EU and American governments apparently do it for them.

    I like the part where the letter says that dependence on MS software isn’t an issue because their contract with Microsoft says so…

    At least here in Canada the government is starting to look at the alternatives seriously. The Conservatives have issued an edict demanding that Ministries take into account the fact that software is Open Source when making evalutations.

  2. Fabien

    The part in French is definitely the interesting

    document.

    I certainly won’t translate it all in English, but I can

    give you some key points.

    “A study has been ordered, asking three EU institutions

    a rough estimation of the cost of switching workstations

    to open-source software.”

    I failed to understand what they mean exactly by that.

    Is it about replacing MS Office with Open Office, or

    replacing all software (including the OS) with OSS?

    “Results:
    European commission: 5618 man-month, 53.9 M€, 25,000

    users, 30,000 PCs.
    Court of Auditors?: 365, 3.5 M€, 700, 800
    Parliament: 1974, 19 M€, 7000, 12000
    Council?: 2310, 25.87 M€, 3000, 6000″

    Around the table, it’s explaned that some figures may be

    wrong, that they failed to find data from some

    institutions, etc. In summary, it’s a mess, but that’s

    the best they could do.
    Also, they apparently didn’t think of comparing that

    cost to the cost of upgrading to new versions of MS

    software.

    “2.3.1. Conclusion:
    - Switching to OSS doesn’t bring any benefit to final

    users.
    - They are currently about 40 pieces of software on

    workstations; they are either provided by MS, or

    developed to work in a MS environment.
    - MS licences cost 6.2 M€/year; OSS would cost about a

    third of that in maintenance; the initial investment

    would need 36.7 years to become profitable.”

    “2.3.3. The expression ”no licence fees” is incorrect because free (in both meanings: free speech / free beer) software doesn’t really exist.” (sic)

    In conclusion, the document seems to make sense at first, but is definitely very biased against OSS.

  3. Very interesting – many thanks for sharing that!

    Like you, I don’t have enough time for elaborate comments right now, but for the most part I think it’s a well-composed presentation, and doesn’t seem to have been doing badly in its predictions so far. There’s a lot of food for thought in it…

    Most of all, I think they’re right about the state of the hype-cycle. And feeding the hype hurts FOSS. The community should not take that message lightly.

    I’d be curious to see the big fat report that they must have shipped with the presentation – there are so many statements there, that each must have quite a few pages of research behind them… probably costs a few thousand dollars to buy that off Gartner :(

  4. mark

    The problem is about quality. You know, Microsoft this or that, if we kill the hype the question of quality still exists.

    Now Microsoft is a de-facto monopoly, with hardly any competition, and they divulged the office suite market too. Where is the competition?

    OpenOffice was launched by Sun. How many open sourced competition exists at all? Koffice, which is promising but still lacks a few “polish” to compete with MS Office seriously. Abiword is nice but not a suite.

    OpenOffice is the only real competitor, and who knows what will happen for the future now that Oracle is behind Sun. Personally I think Oracle is not interested in OpenOffice at all, so in a way I dont really see what alternative to MS Office for windows-machines exist…

    Sure, OpenOffice exists, but MS Office _is_ better. (And I am a “linux fanboi” – just very vocal about the big weaknesses).

  5. Janis Klava

    Nice work Marco, and thanks for letting it out in the wild Stefano.

  6. David Emery

    >Sure, OpenOffice exists, but MS Office _is_ better. (And I am a “linux fanboi” – just very vocal about the big weaknesses).

    How do you measure ‘better’? I get a surprising number of Microsoft Office format documents (both doc and docx) that will -not open- in a fully up-to-date version of Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac, but that open -just fine- using NeoOffice, an open source alternative derived from Open Office.

    I do find Microsoft Excel easier to use, but some of that is just due to the fact that I’m used to its -otherwise mediocre- user interface. PowerPoint 04 was easier to use than PowerPoint 08, but both are usable. However, Microsoft Word, in particular, is a piece of bovine fertilizer for its inability to manage large documents or even to handle nested environments correctly.

    And on this topic, I speak with more than just ‘average end user’, as I once had a job evaluating word processor applications.

    dave

  7. Nayden

    There is currently very little difference between OpenOffice’s capacities and M$ Office’s capacities when it comes to the needs of 99% of the users. It is not true that OpenOffice is the only alternative Office suite to M$ Office – there are plenty of them out there. If you need help finding them out please drop me a line. Open Office is the biggest but also the most restrained one BECAUSE of SUN.

    You know, SUN always hoped to misuse OpenOffice as a lure to their proprietary office suite – what was it called StarOffice or sth ? (It is slightly better than OpenOffice in many aspects). This is the reason the community stopped contributing to the project and the biggest contributor during the last two years has been NOVELL (much more code and fixes than SUN themselves). During the last at least 5 years the community has repeated that once SUN spins OpenOffice off into a foundation, it will receive an enormous boost. SUN never did that for the above mentioned reason. I am now happy Larry came into game – he is THE ONLY BIG ONE who understands open source (Red Hat is not big enough to be called BIG). He built the 100 billion ORACLE with/on open source tools (before that ORACLE did not have even half their current value). The real question now is does Larry want to kill Micro$oft ? If yes, he will spin OpenOffice off into a foundation and we will see a second round of the game Firefox eating IE, only this time the match will be called OO eating M$O. Let’s wait and see.

  8. foo

    “Rampant piracy: in some places, 98% of PCs shipped with Linux run Windows within 12 months”

    May I ask… What places are those? How did they come to this 98% figure?

  9. From Microsoft. Duh.

    I actually do think that MS Office 2007 *is* better than OpenOffice and I run it under Crossover, but I think Linux is much better and it sounds like the study was quite poorly done.

  10. tinman

    @foo

    **May I ask… What places are those? How did they come to this 98% figure?**

    Not only that, but finding a PC shipping with Linux?? Good luck.
    Sheesh. Even if you, the buyer, reject Microsoft’s EULA on the system the manufacturer is _contractually obliged_ to ship with Windows, they won’t willingly refund you the licensing fee they charged on Microsoft’s behalf. Now, them’s the real pirates…

  11. “Rampant piracy: in some places, 98% of PCs shipped with Linux run Windows within 12 months”

    So, the presumption here is that people will never pay for a copy of WIndows if it’s not already on the machine?

  12. Fabien

    > finding a PC shipping with Linux?

    Asus EEEPC?

  13. Yeah, been here, done this.

    There are lies, damn lies and statistics.

    For instance, they show the ROI (return of investment page) and say there is NO ROI in site.

    They don’t point out that each time they buy a newer version of things like MS Office, they have to PAY for it. There is NEVER a ROI in this picture. Further, they have to train new staff all the time and when there is a ‘radical’ change in MS Office (or Windows – I know, I know, but training services think this is necessary so they do it) they do the same.

    Each time they have new software in an agency, they retrain.

    This is a transparent misuse of information, but only obvious if you compare the two arguments rather than taking OOffice and identifying problems in using it.

    Seriously, I work in an agency with 4000 staff. Virtually none of them use anything that you cannot find in OOffice and that would not be easy to use once shown.

    I call BOLLOCKS on this report. The overall impression is they were paid to write a report to match an outcome.

    I’ve been through that too!

  14. [...] Parlamento Europeu» que levantou esta questão, Marco Cappato e ainda uma breve descrição neste blog em inglês, o Conselho da UEuropeia em conluio com a Gartner, uma empresa de consultadoria, mais [...]

  15. > finding a PC shipping with Linux?

    Here : http://wiki.club-ubuntu.org/index.php/Category:Linux_Computers

  16. HereAndNow

    Governments should be pushing for all their applications to be online (either “internet” hosted or “privately” hosted). With HTML5, etc., it is possible for online applications to work offline, in the event that a network connection is lost.

    This would:
    1. Give government agencies the flexibility to use whatever OS they prefer or they find most cost effective (Windows, OS X, Linux, …).
    2. Allow government employees to work from any location on any device (smartphone, tablet, netbook, notebook, desktop, …).
    3. Minimize/eliminate the risk of lock-in, by any vendor.
    4. Set a good example for private industry to follow.

  17. swiftnet

    Whenever a study is done pitting one OS vs another, ROI & TCO very rarely mention the cost of malware. Windows and the malware it fosters are extremely expensive in terms of TCO and ROI.

  18. [...] is what Stefano wrote. An Italian EU deputy, Marco Cappato, had the guts to ask. The reply was they were basing on a [...]

  19. [...] Uma análise rápida ao estudo aqui : [...]

  20. Article: 2.3.3. The expression “no licence fees” is incorrect because free (in both meanings: free speech / free beer) software doesn’t really exist.
    BSD!?!?? Public domain code? Ain’t GPL free? Or LGPL? Or the Apache license? Now where the #&%/&”[]$\ have they been living the last 25 years?

    Nayden: “The real question now is does Larry want to kill Micro$oft ? If yes, he will spin OpenOffice off into a foundation and we will see a second round of the game Firefox eating IE, only this time the match will be called OO eating M$O. Let’s wait and see.”
    Sounds like fun. :D

    Foo: “Rampant piracy: in some places, 98% of PCs shipped with Linux run Windows within 12 months”
    May I ask What places are those? How did they come to this 98% figure?”

    Stephen Samuel: “So, the presumption here is that people will never pay for a copy of WIndows if it’s not already on the machine?”
    +1 FTW xD
    Perfect, I’ll never forget that one!

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