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The Economist: Microsoft at the Power Point

Sep 12, 2003, 17:30 (19 Talkback[s])

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"In May, the city of Munich decided to oust Microsoft Windows from the 14,000 computers used by local-government employees in favour of Linux, an open-source operating system. Although the contract was worth a modest $35m, Microsoft's chief executive, Steve Ballmer, interrupted his holiday in Switzerland to visit Munich and lobby the mayor. Microsoft even dropped its prices to match Linux--a remarkable feat since Linux is essentially free and users merely purchase support services alongside it. But the software giant still lost. City officials said the decision was a matter of principle: the municipality wanted to control its technological destiny. It did not wish to place the functioning of government in the hands of a commercial vendor with proprietary standards which is accountable to shareholders rather than to citizens.

"Worryingly for Microsoft, Munich is not alone in holding that view. Across the globe, governments are turning to open-source software which, unlike proprietary software, allows users to inspect, modify and freely redistribute its underlying programming instructions. Scores of national and state governments have drafted legislation calling for open-source software to be given preferential treatment in procurement. Brazil, for instance, is preparing to recommend that all its government agencies and state enterprises buy open source..."

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