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Dutch govt ends exclusive MS upgrade talks

Protests from MPs, open sourcers pay off

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The Dutch government has abandoned its negotiations with Microsoft over an ambitious plan to upgrade more than 260,000 workstations and servers.

Despite a unanimous vote by the Dutch parliament in 2002 to adopt open standards and open source software, Microsoft recently opened exclusive negotiations with the Dutch government regarding a major software upgrade. After Dutch IT weekly newspaper Automatisering Gids leaked details about the €157m ($210m) deal, Dutch MPs demanded an explanation as to why there hadn't been a mandatory public bid.

In an open letter to the government, several Dutch public organisations and open source lobbyists, including Novell and Bits of Freedom, criticised the government for its secrecy. Even Linspire chief executive Michael Robertson joined in on the heated debate, saying that his Linux software would cost €150m ($201m) less than the MS bid.

The Dutch town of Harlem has already migrated over 2000 desktops to OpenOffice.org after the city was faced with an annual bill of about €500,000 ($669,550) in licensing fees to upgrade from an early version of MS Office. The city found its costs for training and migration to be €50,000 ($66,955) - roughly 90 per cent lower than its licence costs for an upgrade to Office 2000.

Despite the setback, Microsoft says it isn't giving up. It will now negotiate will representatives of different ministries about upgrading their software. ®

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