I counted 19 explicit references to the M-word and I am getting the impression that throughout Europe debates on public software procurement are more and more focused on Open Source promotion, and agencies and politicians are getting fed up with Microsoft. It is more anti-M than pro-FOSS. A great concern is also the use of open standards and open document formats in particular. Angela Eagle (Parliamentary Secretary, HM Treasury) was surprised about the recent link between software procurement policy and preemptive competition policy and defended a "neutrality" approach.
The Government are neutral about the types of software systems that they wish to be used. … I go back to my challenge to open source providers to work with IT services firms, so that they can integrate open source into the solutions they supply when they contract with the Government. That is already happening in many cases, and we are using open source—I have given examples of that—but I would like it to happen more.
It seems to me that a laissez-faire approach is losing ground throughout Europe. In fact the only party that still strongly lobbies for "neutrality" and "software choice" is the Microsoft lobby Initiative for Software Choice and its representative Hugo Lueders who apparently also joined some Open XML standard boards. They are also against real open standards policies under EIF conditions which would ensure equal grounds for all players. Most governments understand that you cannot improve your software procurement conditions without some sabber-rattling, without a credible threat of force. And of course public procurement bears potential externalities to the national market at large but Britain seems to have no ordoliberal tradition.
In Germany Volkswagen's Lopez became famous for teaching the automative sector that procurement power can be used in a very ruthless way to cut procurement costs. But governments still tend to think about suppliers interests, even at the expense of their domestic small and medium enterprise sector. The software sector is viewed from the sales perspective. Procurement is the other side of the medal and large clients as governments can exercise real powers if they want. Any possible means to lower strategic dependencies improve governments present and future procurement conditions and the situation for other users as well. Competition policy cannot solve the problems that were induced by naive negotiators who fraternise with suppliers.
John Pugh (Libdem)
[..]The alternative, which applies across many Departments, is the tendency to have memorandums of understanding with big companies, often foreign and usually American. There is a close association between that side of the industry and the Government—an association that is personal, consultative and advisory. The House will be aware that the former Prime Minister launched the Labour business manifesto at Microsoft. Hon. Members will also be aware that, on the International Business Advisory Council formed by the current Prime Minister, there sits the owner and founder of Microsoft. However, that is not the only problem. Tendering processes and thresholds for the submission of tenders applied by the Government actually exclude many companies—not only open-source companies but many smaller companies and small and medium-sized enterprises. […]
The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting case, which I am following in detail. Would it not help in the quest for openness if the British Standards Institution were to follow the lead in other parts of the world and make open source XML one of the standards to be applied throughout the world? It would mean that people working outside the Microsoft sphere could have access to the code, and it would help the world in future-proofing big projects such as the British Library archives.
John Pugh (Southport, Liberal Democrat)
The hon. Gentleman is far more expert in this field than I am. He will be aware of the debate on XML and of what standards should be used for office applications and the like.
Andrew Miller Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port & Neston, Labour)
Source: Hansard from Theyworkforyou