EU in talks with Microsoft over Windows license renewal

By Tom Warren, on 4th Apr 11 5:30 pm with 4 Comments

The European Commission is in talks with Microsoft to extend the use of Windows across its computers, according to reports.

The current deal with Microsoft will expire on May 31 and the European Commission has confirmed it’s in talks to extend the software license. Antony Gravili, Commission spokesman for Inter-Institutional Administration said the agreement covers 42 agencies and institutions across Europe’s central government. “By negotiating a big order we are hoping to drive down prices,” explained Gravili to the New York Times.

The commission has a four year deal worth $70.7 million and is allowed to renew for up to three years without having to create a public bid. The EC’s decision to consider a Microsoft renewal has angered free software advocates. The Commission’s plans appear to fly in the face of its own European Interoperability Framework, a set of guidelines for governments installing IT systems.

Karsten Gerloff, president of the Free Software Foundation expressed his views in an email to PC World on Friday:

“Is Europe’s administration really so locked in by proprietary software that the Commission cannot follow its own rules and recommendations? Such a decision by the Commission would make us wonder if the Digital Agenda and the European Interoperability Framework are worth the paper they’re printed on. Such a move would also be hard to square with European procurement rules, let alone best practices. The Commission may or may not be able to get away with this. But it would be setting a terrible example for Europe’s public sector, and would willfully squander a lot of hard-won reputational capital.”

Graham Taylor, chief executive of Openforum Europe also claims the Commission’s decisions appears to contradict the IT policy goals it has laid down. “Although we haven’t seen an official statement from the Commission about this yet it does look as though they are pushing ahead with a migration of staff to the Windows 7 platform without holding a public tender for the contract, and without considering alternative solutions,” said Taylor in a statement to PC World.

News of Microsoft’s EU contract talks come less than six months after the EC Directorate for Informatics (Digit) renewed its €49m contract with Microsoft reseller Fujitsu on 8 December. The European Union also named Windows Vista as one of the best net filtering tools in January. The European Union named Vista as the third best filtering tool for over 10 year olds in a recent study commissioned through the “Safer Internet Programme” in Europe. The study bench-marked the main functionality, effectiveness and usability of most currently used filtering software from a technical and ‘fit-for-purpose’ point of view, without any commercial or profitrelated concern.

Microsoft has experienced a turbulent time with the European Union over the years. The European Commission ordered Microsoft to pay $794 million in fines and product a version of Windows without Windows Media Player in March 2004 following years of complaints from competitors. Microsoft fought the judgment and eventually bowed to pressure from the EU by announcing Windows XP Home Edition N in March, 2005. The new rules also impacted Windows Vista and Microsoft was forced to create separate versions of Windows Vista in accordance with EU sanctions brought against the company for violating anti-trust laws.

In related news, Microsoft also announced its intentions to file an antitrust complaint against rival Google in Europe recently. The complaint is part of an ongoing investigation in the EU into whether Google has violated European competition law. Microsoft says it’s “concerned by a broadening pattern of conduct [by Google] aimed at stopping anyone else from creating a competitive alternative.”

  • Joe05

    I find his whole situation humorous, The Europeans have essentially closed the book on Microsoft and moved on and their actions here prove it. Yet you still have the free software cronies crying fowl.

    • spragued

      Hardly surprising. Religious wars can last centuries and the free/open vs. pay/proprietary software battle is nerd religion.

  • Anonymous

    Do these open source advocates want them to all run Ubuntu or something? Good luck with that, the amount of work required to migrate all their programs over would make it a good example of why not to go open source in a corporate environment.

  • Guest

    “and without considering alternative solutions”
    What are these alt solutions he speaks of? linux? mac? lol?!