G2009: Microsoft needs to regain trust

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, Open Source, Software, New Zealand

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  • And for other reasons too . . .

    There are other reasons why MS lost what little trust it had left. A couple come very quickly to mind. First, the non-delivery of specials and extras promised for users of Vista Ultimate. Second, the scandal over "Vista Capable". I am sure other people can add many more ideas to this list! Ms has simply taken its customers for granted for too long. It reached the point where the chorus of discontent must be heard by MS!
  • Why would a Government entrust its business to amateurs?

    Open source is not the answer. There must be a commercial model for services.
    No business would be wise to entrust core business tasks to people developing software part time. Developing software is professional business and needs to be supported by professionals.
    The problem is that business model for PCs with modern office capability and professional security protection does not work. The price points are not right, and the quality of the product is not acceptable.
  • MS & NZ

    I once did a survey of IBM users, many years ago when IBM had a similar market power that Microsoft now wields.

    The result was the same as it is for MS today. There was a love hate relation between users and IBM, which was perceived to be competent, arrogant and a misuser of their market power.

    You have to be a person who is comfortable to exercise power in order to run a company of that size and that energy percolates down to the l;ocal level.

    I guess that's why the US and the EU have anti-trust legislation.

    When a company's revenues are greater than the GDP of the country in which it does business, the locals need to protect themselves from being bullied.
  • I don't agree with anonymous

    "Developing software is professional business and needs to be supported by professionals. "

    1. You imply, perhaps inadvertently, that OSS is not written by professionals. Certainly, there would be many "amateurs" contributing to OSS projects, but most big projects are run by professionals and would undoubtedly have professional input. As for support, there are OSS project that have professional support, such as Linux by the major vendors.
    2. Just because MS products are supposedly written by professionals does not mean that the end result is better. Look at all of the security problems that have plagued Windows and other MS products for years and years. And let us not forget all of the dramas that affected Vista and before that Windows ME.
    3. When a business such as MS such a monopoly, you also end-up with over-pricing and a lack of ethics. Just re-read the article and my earlier posting to get an idea!
  • Open Source as it stands is not the answer

    The open source community is its own worst enemy. I use open source daily. I am writing my own open source framework (well it will be open when its good enough) but the reason open source is not more entrenched in the software world is its own zealotry. People must eat; therefore, software writes must earn money for the software they create. The answer is a less zealous attitude to OS. Dump the restrictive GPL license, use a less restrictive license like the LGPL, and allow commercial and retail software to live alongside each other. Then writers like me can support the Open Source software my apps would rely on but build a saleable version so I can feed my family.
    Most open source software writers rely on closed source software for their income so they are very hypocritical.
    Many companies would be happy to help improve the software their own software relies on. OS would get an even greater boost. And open source would become much more popular.
  • It seems MS cannot trust its own product

    The level of arm-twisting - that is, Microsoft exerting pressure on manufacturers - is current reaching a new level in Taiwan. At stake is the OS for the new breed of netbooks, originally planned to arrive with Android. The day after it was available at the Asus booth, it was withdrawn by Jonney Shih... in an announcement made alongside Steven Guggenheimer, Microsoft's OEM corporate vice president. Doesn't get much more obvious than that. They're really, really scared to compare. Soon, people will start to ask why.
  • We should not allow manufacturers to be heavied by M$

    Of it is illegal in both Australia and NZ under the respective (similar) Trade Practice Legislation for a company with M$' marketshare to in any way 'heavy' a hardware manufacturer to cease offering a competitive product. Of course if M$ did such activity in Oz or NZ, they could be punished. The fact that they do it in the USA (with Dell, HP etc) and in Asia means it is less clear if illegal... but I would argue that if M$ is operating in Oz & NZ, and with products offered in that territory being limited by virtue of M$ breaching the Trade Practices Act in meetings external to that territory, it should still be hit with anti-trust penalties, as is done in the US and EU. What if you had mafia bosses in NZ who flew to Sydney to hold their meetings on planning illegal activities in NZ, then flew back to NZ - should they too be immune from prosecution simply because the meetings were held outside the country, if the results are still visible within the country?