Microsoft: government switch to open source will cause "dissatisfaction"

20 Feb 2014
Westminster

Microsoft claims shift to open source will cost taxpayers more money, and calls for support for its own file formats

Microsoft has hit back against the government's move to open source, claiming the change will cost taxpayers more and result in user "dissatisfaction".

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said last month that government departments should consider switching to the Open Document Format (ODF), giving users the option to flip from Microsoft Office to open source suites.

Maude criticised the "oligopoly" of companies that dominated government IT, and said ending the dependence on proprietary software - such as Microsoft Office - would save money.

Microsoft is now lobbying hard against the proposed changes, claiming a switch to ODF would cost taxpayers more. It argued for the inclusion of its competing standard to ODF, OOXML, in the government's chosen standards for file formats.

"We believe very strongly that the current proposal is likely to increase costs, cause dissatisfaction amongst citizens and businesses, add complexity to the process of dealing with government and negatively impact some suppliers to government," the company said in a post.

"To be very clear, we are not calling for the government to drop its proposal to use ODF," Microsoft added. "Nor are we calling for it to use only Open XML. What we are saying is that the government include both Open XML and ODF."

Market lock-in

Critics of OOXML argue that the standard isn't as open as Microsoft claims, and that an upgrade to Microsoft Office 2013 - and Windows 7 or 8 - is required for it to work properly.

"In reality this is all about prolonging control of a captured market and almost nothing about end user needs," wrote Simon Wardley, a researcher specialising in open source at the Leading Edge Forum, in a December post on the government's move.

Microsoft said software shouldn't be chosen on the basis of the file formats it supports, but on user productivity. "This clearly transcends the cost (or otherwise) of any license," the company said.

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