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Open a Pandora’s Box…
And a Trojan horse jumps out.

Three of the world’s largest software suppliers, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and IBM have reached a compromise licensing arrangements with the Government “ reportedly saving to the public sector purse more £100 million over three years.

As many as two million desktop computers in the civil service could be affected by the three-year arrangement, which has been centrally negotiated by a public sector team led by Peter Gershon at the Office of Government Commerce (OGC).

This aggregation of public sector software needs, involving both central and local government departments, should act as a lesson to the private sector. It’s arguable that after The Health Service and Defence spending, Microsoft licensing has represented one of the public sector’s fastest growing black holes. Before the deal was reached the OGC had forecast that Microsoft’s revised licensing charges of last summer, would cost the public sector an additional £60m a year.

What's interesting about the deal outside of hard bargaining is that Sun Microsystems gets a foot in the door with Star Office and IBM (Through Lotus Development)) is in with a chance for Smartsuite.. a very slim chance! In effect, the Microsoft monopoly looks a little shaky as a consequence of this new policy of aggregation and cost justification.

If my own experience over the last six months is any litmus test of opinion, the public sector in other European countries is starting to question whether software-licensing costs are sustainable, particularly in the poorer countries. As a consequence, I suspect, it was important for Microsoft particularly to be seen to compromise, rather than IBM which is always thought to be happy to see it’s own software edge out its rival, as long as the concessions leaves it with a handful of loose change.
It’s quite possible that, as an example, what has happened in the UK will be followed by government’s elsewhere, in effect, telling Microsoft that handing Microsoft the key to the treasury and allowing it to help itself, just isn’t on the cards anymore, however ‘Special’ the relationship may be.

So with the direction set by government, here’s a radical suggestion, Why don’t the IOD and the CBI get together – God forbid – pool resources and start applying pressure where it hurts in support of cheaper and more sensible software licensing or even cheaper and more sensible software!


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