Microsoft Corp has given a warm welcome to the UK government's recent open source software policy statement, indicating a further softening of the company's approach to its open source rivals.
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft appears to have a growing respect for the competitive threat posed by open source software, and has given a broad thumbs-up to the UK Office of Government Commerce's report, which promotes the use of open source software in local and national government institutions and public-sector organizations.
"We welcome the policy statement in that it clearly states what the policy is," said Mary-Anne Novitzkas, shared source manager for Microsoft UK. "Nothing's really changed. It's quite a neutral policy but it means that we can now compete on merit and value." While Microsoft's response to the policy may be the now-expected "we value competition" response, it has also been helped by the OGC's softly-softly approach to open source.
Prompted by the European Commission's "eEurope - An Information Society for all" initiative, the OGC's open source software policy statement lays out the UK government's approach to the use of open source software. While the policy does give some credibility to the use of open source software in government projects, it stops well short of the positive discrimination being planned or implemented in other European countries.
The Norwegian government recently decided not to renew a Microsoft Select 5.0 license agreement in order to promote the use of open source software. In comparison, the furthest OGC report goes is to state that the "UK government will explore further the possibilities of using OSS as the default exploitation route for government funded R&D software."
Other policies include: open source software being considered alongside proprietary software with contracts awarded on a value for money basis; the use of interoperability products only if they support open standards and specifications; an attempt to avoid vendor lock-in to proprietary products; and that the government will consider obtaining full rights to bespoke software code or customizations of commercial of the shelf software where it achieves the best value for money.
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