Skip to main content
The Devil & The Big Blue Sea

In case you didn’t know, the true reason behind Bill Gates visit to London wasn’t the meeting with Chancellor Gordon Brown or even a Microsoft developers conference but an allegedly important briefing on personal development from Golden Globe winning comedian Ricky Gervais – otherwise known as David Brent - star of the popular Sitcom, ‘The Office’ and its forthcoming sequel, The Office 2004.



In search of further comic relief Mr Gates, soon to be Microsoft's 'First Knight', was scheduled to attend, the Chancellor’s ‘Entrepreneurs Summit’ and meet with the OGC’s Sir Peter Gershon and the NHS’s Richard Grainger.

At this point, the smiles may fade a little because both the OGC and the NHS are pursuing a vigorous form of collective bargaining that might defeat even David Brent. Many in government perceive Microsoft’s products as over-sexed, over-priced and over here and at the end of last year, I received a call from one well-connected individual who claimed that the power savings alone to the Public Sector in moving away from Windows have been calculated in the tens of millions.

The argument in Government circles is that environmentally friendly Penguin power might release enough budget to drive the improvements that Whitehall is looking for and perhaps balance the cost of the 61,000 mostly administrative staff taken on by the NHS in the year to June 2002. The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) also stands accused of lacking the appropriate level of political correctness in the ratio of Open Source to Windows solutions in government and MPs believe it needs to do more to achieve a level playing field, which has led to a series of dismally unimpressive trials of Open Source in local government, which led to Newham Council throwing in the towel before Christmas.

For Gates and Microsoft the message is quite clear and other Governments are now starting to tighten the policy screw on Microsoft’s pricing, two years after the Greeks described this as ‘unsustainable’ at the EU Hydra Conference in Nafpolion.

Sun Microsystems is now lobbying hard for a public sector breakthrough and it is no coincidence that Richard Barrington, who was Director of Industry at the Office of the e-Envoy, is now leading the charge now he is back at Sun.

Government is however caught between a devil of its own making and the deep blue sea. It is reasonable to assume that Microsoft is prepared to compromise to a level which offers Government a dramatic reduction in its total cost of ownership but this is unlikely to be as low as Sun or IBM and others can go in offering a Linux / Java desktop across the entire public sector.

What may be preventing Government from making any clear Open Source decision is fear of the unknown and not price. Government is conservative by nature and risk averse. It likes standards, it likes accountability and in general, given the outrageous costs of IT failures over the last five years, it is wary of the promises of the IT industry. A damning comment was made at Linux World this month. Jeremy White, a leading developer of Linux applications told an audience of network administrators.” It works 98 percent of the time. But it's the 2 percent of the time it doesn't that kills you" and even some of the Penguin’s biggest supporters admit that Linux has a long way to go before it can mount a credible alternative to Microsoft Windows.

As long as Bill Gates can bend with the wind and make concessions, I believe it is unlikely that we will see any dramatic public sector shift towards Open Source computing for at least three years. In that time, we will see a steady growth in the introduction of Open Source solutions but Windows will remain dominant. However, at some time, in the not too distant future, Government will have become more confident in what Open Source can offer and then not even the introduction of David Brent’s sales skills will sustain the near monopoly Microsoft enjoys in public sector computing today.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.


In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …

The Big Steal

I’m not here to predict the future;” quipped the novelist, Ray Bradbury. “I’m here to prevent it.” And the future looks much like one where giant corporations who hold the most data, the fastest servers, and the greatest processing power will drive all economic growth into the second half of the century.

We live in an unprecedented time. This in the sense that nobody knows what the world will look like in twenty years; one where making confident forecasts in the face of new technologies becomes a real challenge. Before this decade is over, business leaders will face regular and complex decisions about protecting their critical information and systems as more of the existing solutions they have relied upon are exposed as inadequate.

The few real certainties we have available surround the uninterrupted march of Moore’s Law - the notion that the number of transistors in the top-of-the-line processors doubles approximately every two years - and the unpredictability of human nature. Exper…