Linspire boss urges Dutch government to go open source

After it was revealed that the Dutch government was in negotiations with Microsoft, Linspire boss Michael Robertson has said his software could cost €150m less

Linspire chief executive Michael Robertson yesterday urged the Dutch government to consider open source as an option in an ambitious upgrading of over 260,000 workstations and servers.

"It could save you over €150m" he estimated in an open letter to the Dutch prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende.

Privacy and open source advocates have been up in arms since Dutch IT magazine De Automatisering Gids leaked details about secret negotiations between Microsoft and the Dutch government. The secrecy was widely condemned in an earlier open letter.

Large government projects are required to be open to all, says Bits of Freedom, a digital civil rights movement based in Amsterdam.

In 2002 the parliament unanimously voted for a proposal dubbed 'motion Vendrik' that would let government institutions use open standards by 2006. Motion Vendrik resulted in the The Open Standards and Open Source Software (OSOSS) programme, which aimed to stimulate Dutch government organisations to adopt open standards in their ICT-applications

"The [recent] contract negotiations are squarely opposed to the motion Vendrik and undermine the positive results of the OSOSS programme," Bits of Freedom wrote.

Robertson claims that a switch to open source software could save the Dutch government €150m. His Linspire product has similar functionality to a Windows desktop but is entirely based on Linux. "My sources have revealed that Microsoft has submitted a formal proposal of €156m -- an estimate of €150m more than Linspire's proposal. I want to stress that even with the dramatic cost difference, you will receive a comparable product," Robertson writes.

Microsoft estimates it could service the five-year contract for about €120 per year, per machine. Robertson says that he could do it for €4.5 per machine, on the same conditions.

Linspire's proposal would include the operating system with updates, specific on-site customisation, a suite of business software and access to a special 1,900-title software library. Robertson stated that should his company be awarded the order, he would personally oversee implementation.

Since it has been in power, the Balkenende cabinet has taken highly unpopular cost-cutting measures in many fields, necessary to keep the budget deficit from reaching a mandatory European limit of 3 percent.


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