European Commission denies favouring open source

The EC is distancing itself from a report it commissioned that found open-source software can deliver significant benefits
Written by Richard Thurston, Contributor

The European Commission has distanced itself from a report it commissioned that endorsed the use of open-source software.

The Commission contacted ZDNet UK this week to insist that it is "technology neutral" and that it did not therefore support open-source software.

The report was published on the Commission's website earlier this month, and detailed the financial contribution that open-source software is expected to make to European economies. The report said that in "almost all cases", the long-term total cost of ownership is lower with open-source software than proprietary software.

A team of academics from the United Nations University in Maastricht, Netherlands, completed the report, which was funded by the Commission.

But the Commission's spokesperson insisted: "We would like to stress that we are absolutely neutral in our assessment: we are neither against nor in favour [of open source]. The Commission's policy favours open competition, interoperability, standards and vendor independence. That's what we would like to stress. We are not against it [open source], but we are not supporting either side of the field. We are not judging on what the academics said, or what other people say."

The Commission's statement comes just days after it was lobbied to clarify its position on open source. The Initiative for Software Choice (ISC) wrote to the Commission immediately after the release of the report urging it to contact the "international press" to "set the record straight" over its stance. The ISC's external affairs are handled by CompTIA, which is funded by several IT vendors including Microsoft.

Some in the open-source community hailed the publication of the report as a milestone in the push to have open-source software used widely in homes and businesses. Simon Phipps, chief open-source officer at Sun, said the report "presents Microsoft's 'Get The FUD' campaign with a cold, hard draught of unbiased basic research from a neutral party".

Microsoft's campaign, which is actually called "Get The Facts", includes examples of companies who have chosen Windows over Linux, but has been accused of being inaccurate.

The Commission told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that it did not rule out commissioning further open-source reports in the future.

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