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Portuguese open sourcers decry MS-only gov eProcurement

Running Linux? Want to tender? Forget it

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Portuguese open sourcers are a bit miffed that a government "eProcurement" platform offers "conditioned access to bid at a public tender", viz: If you're not running Microsoft software you're not tendering for anything.

That's according to the Associação de Empresas de Software Open Source Portuguesas, aka ESOP, which claims that the “vortalGOV” platform, operated by Vortal - Comércio Electrónico, Consultadoria e Multimédia S.A, "excludes every company not running Microsoft-based technology from bidding at a public tender".

ESOP explains: "Even though this is an online platform available on the web, therefore in theory universally accessible, only Microsoft browsers and operating systems can in fact gain access to it."

It adds: "For instance, national companies opting for Linux, Solaris, BSD or Apple-based systems cannot access the platform, and are consequently prevented from bidding at public tenders, unless they acquire Microsoft technology for that purpose."

Having made its point, repeatedly, ESOP then insists: "Since the deployment of electronic procurement platforms is currently mandatory, this is a particularly serious situation. It entails an artificial constraint on the market induced by a private firm while implementing a service foreseen in Código dos Contratos Públicos (Public Procurement Law)."

This "artificial constraint" is, ESOP notes, contrary to "the dispositions contained in Decree-law n. 143-A/2008 and European directives, where non-discrimination, interoperability and compatibility are key criteria".

While ESOP rather kindly says it "does not oppose of a private entity such as Vortal using Microsoft, or any other base technology of their choice, and has no legitimacy to comment upon internal software options", it insists that "to impose software of a specific brand onto a third party and thus, in clear opposition to several laws, directly hamper competition through a legally required service is indeed a serious matter".

It adds: "This situation gives rise to a direct interference in the software options of end-costumers/enterprises, options which should be based exclusively on regular market functioning, with no restrictions arising from the technical requirements of a public service."

ESOP has apparently made several approaches to Vortal's development team "to diplomatically reach a solution for this problem" - without success. As a result of Vortal's rebuff, the organisation has now reported the matter to the relevant "national and international authorities" - including the European Commission.

It warns: "ESOP’s associate companies may eventually demand compensation for possible client loss and public image damage caused by this situation." ®

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