Microsoft UK: Don't Cave to UK Survey's Linux "Suggestions"

UK public-sector survey for budget cuts highlights dumping Microsoft for Linux

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Dear Microsoft UK:

Normally I don't offer you or your parent company unsolicited advice, but in the face of recent, blatant flim-flammery, I felt it was my moral obligation to warn you of what will surely be huge hit for your public sector business.

It has come to my attention that as part of the UK's austere budgeting program known as the Spending Challenge, Her Majesty's Treasury has released the first-phase results of a survey of public-sector workers asking for ways to save money in the UK budget.

The survey results were a sampling of the nearly 60,000 ideas that were turned into the HM Treasury office... 31 suggestions that, according to the post, "...are not ideas that have been shortlisted for further work or implementation but they will all be considered individually alongside the other 60,000 ideas that have been put forward."

Despite the claim that these are not shortlisted ideas, it was interesting that two of the 31 ideas dealt specifically with replacing proprietary systems with Linux and open source software. Actually, it was more specific than that: the two suggestions made it clear that it was the government's contracts with you, Microsoft UK, that should be canceled.

Like suggestion #8:

"In terms of spending less--what about migrating the whole of government (the NHS, Education etc) from Microsoft products to Linux and open source software like Openoffice [sic]."

Or the even more scathing #28:

"Annul the government's agreement with Microsoft to provide software and operating systems (OS) to government departments and switch to open source software and Linux based operating systems. This would reduce costs by: Reducing the need to update hardware in line with new Microsoft OS releases. Linux OS and open source software has a lower whole life cost and is less susceptible to viruses. Support a more diverse spectrum of the IT industry, instead of one corporation; generating additional UK tax revenue."

Ouch.

Okay, that one's got to sting, but let's look at this realistically. It's clear that the publication of these two suggestions are clearly an effort to put you on notice that the UK government doesn't like your current pricing structure, your security vulnerabilities, or the intensive hardware resources your software requires. And now they want another deal.

It's not like those sneaky Britons haven't done this before: there was the 2003 public attempt by London's Newham Borough Council to dump your products, which led to your company cutting them such a sweetheart deal they could scrap their migration plans and stay with Windows XP.

Then, in 2006, the Birmingham City Council somehow ended up spending £534,710 [US$804,000] on a 200-desktop migration to Linux, and was unable to justify continuing with the rest of the planned 1,500-desktop migration. No one is really sure how the Birmingham IT team managed to spend over three-quarters of a million dollars migrating 200 Linux desktops, and in late 2006 you denied any allegations that you cut Birmingham another sweet deal.

I guess you hadn't at the time, because despite blowing over a half-million pounds on Linux, the Birmingham City Council came back in March 2007 making noises about actually extending the migration project and actually declaring their sponsorship of the National Open Centre (NOC), "a national policy institute, a think tank to understand and articulate strategies to make effective use of Open Source Software and Open Standards for the benefit of all."

I wonder if you caved to Birmingham's blatant attempt at a shakedown, because looking at the NOC site now, it looks like the site is now a parking site with a little open source conference information, mostly in German, no less. I'm pretty sure an official UK site wouldn't be in German, so let's take a stab at saying that NOC is now defunct and the Birmingham City Council is now much happier with their contract with you, Microsoft UK.

And now, here comes the national government comes with these two highlighted "suggestions." C'mon, Dr. Nicola Hodson, General Manager, Public Sector of Microsoft UK, you're not going to fall for this, are you? This is just a clear shot across the bows of Microsoft, trying to get you to re-work the government's software contract.

Well, you know what? Don't do it. Let the UK government convert to Linux and open source software. Call their bluff, and let them deploy software that is cheaper, faster, and more secure. Don't cave to those tricky politicians' sneaky attempts to shake you down. Stand firm on your bottom line, and reap the profit margin you so clearly feel you deserve.

That'll fix 'em.

After all, what do you have to lose? You and your bosses in Redmond have repeatedly said Microsoft products are superior to open source applications and operating systems in every way, so you'd teach those government paper-pushers a thing or two when they actually deployed Linux. I mean, you're not worried that they might find out something different, are you?

Because if you do respond to "suggestions" like these, one might start to wonder if you aren't as confident in the performance of your own products in the face of open source competition as you claim.

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