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LinuxPR: OSIA Offers Suggestions, Topics for Gates' Meeting with Austraian PM

Jun 14, 2004, 17:30 (9 Talkback[s])


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OSIA, Australia's Open Source industry body, notes with interest the recent announcement that Microsoft chairman Bill Gates will be having discussions with the Prime Minister. While we are happy that the Prime Minister is sending the message to the community that the ICT industry is increasingly important to the government, we have the following topics, which we hope can be raised in the discussions between the Prime Minister and Mr. Gates during their forthcoming meeting.


Microsoft extracts hundreds of millions of dollars from the Australian economy annually, and yet it undertakes negligible Research & Development (R & D) here. This is in marked contrast to ICT vendors such as IBM, SGI, Red Hat, HP among others, which have been investing money in hiring Australian software developers and technologists to construct future versions of Linux and other open source products.

Question to Mr. Gates: Why should the Australian government continue to purchase software from Microsoft, when that firm treats this country as a mere shop-front for sales revenue, rather than a quality resource which can contribute considerable Intellectual Property through local software engineering effort?


The Australian government has recently released an excellent 'Guide to ICT Sourcing'. This document raises the serious issue of the high costs associated with migrating away from specific products, due to various vendor lockin strategies such as non-standards compliance. At present, the two most serious examples which affect the government are the Windows API and Microsoft Office document formats. By contrast, Linux is already compliant with the major operating system industry standard, POSIX, and OpenOffice.org is already compliant with the OASIS XML-based document format open standard.

Question to Mr. Gates: When will Microsoft formally open, document and unencumber the Windows API and Microsoft Office file-formats as open standards? Alternatively, when will Microsoft adopt a full and supported implementation of POSIX as the core of its Windows product, and migrate Microsoft Office to the open OASIS XML-based standard?


Wile the claimed aims of the "Unlimited Potential" program mentioned by Mr. Gates is to "provide people with access to computer technology, education and training irrespective of age or circumstances", the program uses and promotes software that many Australians simply can't afford. As a contrast, in an effort to tackle a lack of access to technology, Extramadura, known for being the poorest region in Spain, has boosted its economy through distribution of free Linux CDs to it's citizens. Extramadura has recently achieved a ratio of 1 computer per two students in schools, which is far better than the same ratio in Australia, and is starting to see a blossoming IT economy where none existed. They have achieved all this because they save millions on Microsoft software licence costs and are encouraging local software expertise using globally open code.

Question to Mr Howard: To help bridge the digital divide, wouldn't it be better if the Australian government promoted freely available, open source IT solutions, which are equally accessible to all Australians, irrespective of income, age and circumstances?


We can assume that Mr. Gates will be presenting to the Prime Minister Microsoft's future vision for the ICT industry. As a matter of equity and fairness, it would be appropriate for the open source industry to also also have an opportunity to put forward its own vision for the future of ICT; a vision of open platforms, greater consumer rights and digital freedoms, strong competition and a far greater opportunity for Australian ICT software technology vendors to participate in the local and global marketplace.

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