Microsoft has dismissed high-profile European government defections to
open source, but acknowledged that Europe will be a key battleground between
Windows and Linux.
Speaking to Silicon.com at the TechEd
2004 conference in Amsterdam this week, Microsoft's European general
manager, Philippe Dumont, said there are cultural reasons for some governments
wanting to limit dependency on U.S.-based multinationals.
"What we have in Europe is a different situation to the U.S. We have a better
job to do explaining and demonstrating the added value Microsoft has as a local
company," Dumont said. "We need to make sure we have less of these emotional
debates around a move to Linux and open source creating independence from the
U.S. We need to get back into more of a rational discussion about what is the
cost of running Linux and open source."
Europe has seen arguably the most high-profile Linux switch, with Steve
Ballmer famously flying in at the 11th hour to try to save a deal with the mayor
of Munich, Germany. Ballmer's effort failed, and after a yearlong trial, the
city of Munich
is due to begin its full open-source rollout in July.
The U.K. government is evaluating Linux in several pilot projects with IBM
and Sun Microsystems, and the French government this month threatened to switch to
open source as part of a cost-cutting drive.
But Dumont said the defections are limited to a few high-profile contracts.
"That kind of thinking is by a few people who make a lot of noise," he said. "In
reality there are very few cases."
This week, however, saw a private-sector
switch when the Allied Irish Bank opted to ditch Microsoft for Sun's Java
Desktop System. Dumont said the fact that the bank was running an old version of
Microsoft's software was a key factor in the switch. He called it a "one-off"
and said many other banks already have opted to deploy the latest version of
Dumont also acknowledged that more customers are using Linux to try to get
deeper discounts on Microsoft products. He added that it is a "fair" negotiating
"It shows competition is alive and well," he said. "On one side, we're fairly
confident we've never abused our dominant position to increase prices. At the
same time, if customers can find a solution that is more cost-effective, they
should shout about it. It's a fair game, and we do the same when we go to
Speaking about the European
Commission's antitrust ruling on Windows Media Player, Dumont reiterated
Microsoft's determination to fight regulators' call for an unbundled version of
"We would have preferred to have it behind us, and that is why we worked so
hard to settle and try to meet the Commission's requirements," he said.
"Fragmenting the platform is not something in our mind that resolves anything."
Andy McCue of Silicon.com
reported from London.