G2009: Microsoft needs to regain trust

Summary:We've got our own open source versus Microsoft stoush going on in New Zealand, with the government as a key player.

We've got our own open source versus Microsoft stoush going on in New Zealand, with the government as a key player.

What's interesting to note ... is how little trust and credibility Microsoft is able to bring to bear in this battle.

What triggered it was the government and Microsoft failing to agree on a blanket three-year central software licensing deal, named G2009.

Initially, the New Zealand Open Source Society (NZOSS) cautiously greeted the negotiations' collapse as a victory, but then it dawned on them that it wasn't quite so easy. Microsoft now gets to talk to the various government agencies individually, who may or may not spend their budgets with the Redmondians. The difference is, there won't be a centrally negotiated low price as there was with G2006 this time (NZOSS disputes that the G2006 negotiations saved much money, but that's another story).

The enraged NZOSS claims Microsoft products do not represent best value for money compared to open source ones, and points out the big savings on not having to pay licensing fees and dealing with issues such as poor interoperability.

Microsoft counters this by saying licence fees are a small fraction of IT budgets in general, and that it saw the interoperability light many years ago and now plays nicely with others. Besides, what's wrong with earning money by selling software?

Both sides are correct to some extent, and I don't envy the government CIOs caught in the crossfire.

What's interesting to note, however, is how little trust and credibility Microsoft is able to bring to bear in this battle. Microsoft has some good and clever people working for them in NZ that I rate highly. They're not zealots, most use open source and participate in discussions openly and frankly, but the M sign on their foreheads means they're hobbled from the beginning in every argument.

Microsoft tends to be its own worst enemy, something the open-source movement is able to amplify with ease.

I wrote about this years ago, when Microsoft was burning through user trust and expectations with all the arrogance Bullhorn Ballmer and other Microsoft top brass could muster.

At the time, I felt it would be extremely hard if not impossible to regain user trust and I think I was right. Microsoft tends to be its own worst enemy, something the open-source movement is able to amplify with ease. The media coverage around the G2009 negotiations is a case in point.

How much does this matter though? Can the open-source movement capitalise on the lack of trust? That's far from certain. Workers spending 10-hour days in front of screens and IT managers don't tend to care about ideology, and besides, it's not their money that's being spent. And, Microsoft knows that.

Topics: Government, Government : AU, New Zealand, Open Source, Software

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