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Hungary mandates open standards

Competition in the software game? We've heard of it

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The Hungarian government has mandated the use of open standards in its departments in a move to help "foster" competition in the software market.

The Open Standards Alliance said that the Hungarian Parliament amended Act LX of 2009 on electronic public services last week.

It issued a 10-point amendment that makes the use of open standards in Hungarian government mandatory by law.

"Hungarian Parliament has made the use of open standards mandatory by law in the intercommunication between public administration offices, public utility companies, citizens and voluntarily joining private companies, conducted via the central governmental system," said the OSA, which had lobbied for changes to the Hungarian Parliament Act.

The OSA hoped such a move would "promote the spread of monopoly-free markets that foster the development of interchangeable and interoperable products," in effect paving the way for more competition in that market.

It's a bold step by the Hungarian government, and the open standard amendment may ultimately carry more weight than had Parliament only mandated the use of open source software in its departments. Because, after all, software licences - be they open source or proprietary - can be seen as a more restrictive way of convincing users to stick with that product.

But while Hungary may be held up as a shining example by some players in the software game, Blighty's efforts have been lambasted in some quarters.

In September public sector software procurement rules in the UK came under fire after several well-known open source vendors complained that a lack of enforcement effectively nullified the policy, thereby making OSS and open standard procurements a rarity rather than the rule.

Ingres software veep, Emma McGrattan told The Register last week that regulation was needed in Brussels to ensure open source and open standards were mandated by governments across Europe.

In not unrelated news, Ingres and Freesoft PLC won the Hungarian government's open source software tender, in a four-year $22.3m deal earlier this month.

"This is one of the largest open source procurements I have seen and we applaud the Hungarian government for leading the way in introducing competition and cutting back on proprietary software purchases," said Ingres CEO Roger Burkhardt on 7 December.

"In my opinion, the Hungarian government is showing the European Union that there is plenty of open source competition in the market today. I anticipate that more government bodies than before will be following Hungary's lead and will benefit from the cost savings that come with an open source deployment."

Of course, the open standards amendment doesn't blow Microsoft out of the political waters in Hungary. But it might make life that little bit tougher for Redmond when it tries to flog its wares to the Magyars. ®

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