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MS scorns Israeli OpenOffice defection

'Immature and unproven software package'

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The Israeli Ministry of Commerce - essentially the treasury - has suspended all contracts with Microsoft.

First out of the door is the Israeli employment agency, which will replace 550 out of 700 users with OpenOffice. The contract represents a hardware win for IBM. Some 150 staff will stay on Microsoft Office. For now, all the switchers will remain on Windows, running the Win32 version of the software libre equivalent of Microsoft Office.

Microsoft reacted scornfully to the decision, the Hebrew-only Daily Mail reports, accusing the Israelis of being tight-fisted.

"The employment agency has selected an immature and unproven software package and its functionality is at the best close to Office 97," said Microsoft representatives.

Accusing the ministry of penny pinching is hardly a promising line of attack, we suggest. Users make rational choices. And Word 97-era functionality is clearly considered good enough for the Israeli ministry of employment.

Traditionally, incumbents fight better-value insurgents by stressing switching costs. We'll be hearing about the importance of the fabled Microsoft Office Corporate Macro™ fairly soon - a mythical beast which has never been sighted outside of technical computer magazines. Switching costs are certainly a factor, but may be less than Microsoft had banked on.

In a little noticed decision recently, Israel's Antitrust Authority director general, Dror Strum, declared Microsoft a monopoly. Separate civil actions on behalf of open source and Apple advocates are pending; a motion by the former to State Prosecutor Tadmor recently brought to light unpublished decisions by the Antitrust Authority to abide by the US antitrust settlement. The latter followed an outcry by Israel's Macintosh community about Microsoft's failure to support right-to-left languages, such as Arabic, Urdu and Hebrew - in their Macintosh applications. Apple now fully supports right-to-left languages, but there's no sign of Microsoft enabling the feature at the application level. This affects Apple in the Hebrew and in the much larger Arab and Indian markets. ®

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