The European Commission looks set to become the latest large scale user of Windows 7. The Commission has put forward a proposal to upgrade more than 36,000 of its desktop computers in the various European institutions to Windows 7.
However the EU has been accused of favoritism in handing out its IT contracts since they made this decision without holding a public tender. Many supporters of open sourced software are outraged by the Commissions decision to go with Windows 7 and hardly consider any other alternatives. They claim it’s going against the Commissions own policies by operating a closed operating system and not promoting competition. The European Commission has it’s own European Interoperability Framework which is a set of guidelines for government systems. It strongly encourages the use of open specifications and warns of the dangers of being locked into one software vendor.
The current licenses for Windows XP and Windows 2000 expire in May so the Commission is under pressure to roll out the update as soon as they can. By upgrading to Windows 7 it could tie to Commission to Microsoft for the next four to five years. Which is ironic when you consider the Commission’s own advice to the public to “avoid lock-in”
Jan Wildeboer of Linux distributor Red Hat said on Wednesday that he was very disappointed in the decision.
The Commission’s supposed deal with Microsoft is not really strengthening its own message of avoiding lock-in. We are hopeful that the Commission will practice what it preaches. In the interests of a fair and free market we must have vendor-neutral tendering,”
This proposed deal will have a huge knock on effect for Microsoft if it goes through. It could potentially be worth millions of euro to them. Not only will the EU have to acquire licenses for it’s 36,000 systems, but also many other bodies and organisations will be looking to keep pace with the Commission and upgrade their systems as well.
Personally I don’t think that supporters of open standards and other platforms should be so enraged by this proposal. Let’s face it, the vast majority of the world is running Windows (90%+) so would it not make sense for the EU to implement an operating system that is widely recognised around the world. There is a lot more software compatible and available with Windows systems than the likes of Linux or Mac. What’s more if the commission was to change to OS X, they would also have to change all their systems since OS X doesn’t run on Windows machines – at least not legally.