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[K12OSN] One state adopts Open-Source mantra....(good read)

One state adopts open-source mantra 
Massachusetts? decision fires shot across Microsoft?s bow 

BOSTON, Oct. 19 ? With more than $32 billion in sales last year, Microsoft
Corp. doesn?t usually worry about losing one customer. But this one may be
different. In a memo sent last month, Massachusetts Administration and
Finance Secretary Eric Kriss instructed the state?s chief technology
officer to adopt a policy of ?open standards, open source? for all future
spending on information technology. 

THE DIRECTIVE likely wouldn?t completely cut out Microsoft from the
state?s $80 million technology budget.
       But it may have been the clearest example yet of a state government
taking sides ? against Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft ? in the most
important struggle in the software industry. 
       Microsoft?s software generally uses ?proprietary? code that the
company closely guards. Its biggest threat is from ?open source? operating
systems led by Linux, whose core components are public, and which users
are free to pass around and customize as they like.
       Governments are a huge market, accounting for about 10 percent of
global information technology spending, according to research firm IDC.
Federal, state and local governments in the United States spent $34
billion last year on huge systems to track everything from tax collection
to fishing licenses.
       ?I think they?re correct to be concerned,? said Ted Schadler,
principal analyst at Forrester Research, adding that government
switchovers could doubly hurt Microsoft by persuading big corporate
customers that, if huge public bureaucracies can adopt platforms like
Linux, so can large companies.

         Governments have also been among the most aggressive early
adapters of Linux. IBM, a major Linux backer, says it has installed or is
installing Linux for 175 public sector customers.
       ?The momentum is unstoppable at this point,? said Scott Handy, vice
president of Linux strategy and market development at IBM. ?The leading
indicator as far as a customer set has been government.?
       Many believe open source will prove cheaper to deploy and operate,
and that it may be more secure; because the codes are public, flaws may be
discovered more quickly. And some foreign governments seem eager not to be
dependent on an American company.
       Federal agencies in France, China and Germany, as well as the city
government of Munich, have opted for Linux. Britain, Brazil and Russia are
also exploring it.
       ?You scratch any one of these initiatives and you can?t escape that
it?s Microsoft they?re trying to displace,? Schadler said.
       Microsoft?s risk of losing the public sector market altogether is
small, at least for now.
       The company?s products are just too essential, and many open source
alternatives too ineffective for many of the kinds of big database jobs
governments require. Kriss said the state would still use Microsoft
products when cost-effective open-source alternatives aren?t available.
       Microsoft says it knows it won?t win every contract, but it opposes
any type of mandate preventing proprietary software from even being
considered. It says that?s bad for technology companies and bad for
taxpayers, who may get stuck paying for inferior, more expensive products.
       ?We do treat this issue very seriously here,? said David Kaeffer,
Microsoft?s director of technology policy.
       Microsoft has fought open-source mandates with limited success.
Proposals similar to Massachusetts?, including ones in Oregon and Texas,
have been shot down after complaints from Microsoft and other technology
companies whose products could be shut out. Microsoft also aggressively
lobbied the Defense Department to cut its use of open source software,
according to a Washington Post report last year.
       The company has plenty of reason to worry.
       The Microsoft-led industry group Initiative for Software Choice has
tracked 70 different open-source preference proposals in 24 countries. And
despite Microsoft?s lobbying, a Pentagon report concluded that open source
was often cheaper and more secure, and that its use, if anything, should
       Gerry Wethington, Missouri?s chief information officer and
president of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers,
said many of his group?s members are pushing hard to bring open standards
to their states.   

       Microsoft countered with an initiative in July that steeply
discounts software for government users. It also agreed to make its secret
source code available to some governments in order to assuage security
       Microsoft insists that it supports ?open standards,? which is often
associated with ?open source? but can also be a broader term meaning any
way of making technology work together.
       Although some analysts say open-source products may offer stronger
security and greater reliability, the argument that they make it easier
for systems to talk to each other falls apart if many of those systems are
already Microsoft.
       ?Politically, there are only pros, but in terms of government
employee productivity there are quite a few cons,? said Schadler, the
Forrester researcher.

David N. Trask
Technology Teacher/Coordinator
Vassalboro Community School
dtrask vcs u52 k12 me us

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