Berlin — the European Commission, which last month urged Governments across the continent to develop computer systems that communicate better with one another, it intends to extend the use of Microsoft software products that the company's critics say are incompatible with other systems.
A task force of the Commission provisionally approved plans to update 36,180 office computer used by the Commission, the European Parliament and more than 45 other agencies e.u. for Windows 7 from Windows XP, the minutes of a meeting on December 15, the Working Group in Brussels which were obtained with the International Herald Tribune.
The next day, the full Commission adopted a series of guidelines, called the European interoperability framework of purchasing the software. These guidelines urged EU governments to build and maintain software interoperable systems that incorporate open source products, which are free of charge and use technology standards that are compatible with competing products.
"This is highly symbolic," said Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe, a group based in D?sseldorf where contributors include software developers and companies like Google and Red Hat, a vendor of open source software. "The Commission shall be responsible for not only performs an organization effectiveness, but doing the right thing for Europe."
The decision could be seen as ironic given the decades-long antitrust battle with Microsoft's Commission, which is accused of improperly prevent rival to create products that could be used with Windows, the operating system that powers the vast majority of computers around the world.
Recommendation of the task force, which would extend the Commission's use of Windows for two years, would cost approximately 4.5 million, or $ 6.1 million, a year based on its current contracts. The proposal was approved pending a legal review and final budget.
Francisco Garc?a Mor?n, Director of the Directorate General for Informatics, whose Department prepared the recommendation to upgrade to Windows 7, has refused to be interviewed. Maros Sevcovic, European Commissioner for inter-institutional relations and administration, which oversees the Government purchase of software, also declined a request for comment.
Michael Mann, a spokesman for Mr. Sevcovic and Mr. Garc?a Mor?n, said the decision whether to upgrade computers to Windows 7 the Commission remained open. In response to questions submitted by the International Herald Tribune, Mr. Mann wrote that EU financial regulations will vest Mr. Garc?a Mor?n, as the authorising officer to the Commission, with the final decision on procurement of the software.
"The authorising officer to file, at this stage does not have a contract award decision," Mr. Mann wrote to the Commission's reply. The Commission has refused to comment on project status, he added, until it was taken the decision on procurement.
So did Microsoft, which provides software to the Commission through resellers.
Mr. Mann noted that the Commission's computer systems were using open source software since 2001 and already use more than 250 open source software products from companies like Red Hat, Atlassian and Balsamiq Studios. The daily operations of the Commission in Brussels run on more than 350 servers using the Linux open source operating system, he added, and Government Web sites use 850 servers running open source software.
Because the Commission integrated open source products, including proprietary software that uses open standard technology compatible with competing products, Mr. Mann said that there was no conflict between the pending Commission recommendation on desktop software and the objectives of the recently approved Framework interoperability.
"Until now not major projects (and most non-critical projects, especially cross-border and/or those involving Member States) have been discontinued or hampered by the failure of the Commission to honour its commitment to technical standards," Mr. Mann wrote.
The discussion technical Arcana belies a commercial battle of multimillion-euro between Microsoft and a number of open source software, many would-be rivals of their smaller competitors but also several major global technology companies like Google, Red Hat, Oracle, and International Business Machines.
Google and Red Hat give away software over open source licenses, including desktop applications, as part of broader business strategies. Oracle and IBM, install, maintain and update your open source software for businesses and institutions with their own proprietary software. Last January, Oracle has bought Sun Microsystems acquired and OpenOffice, an open source desktop application that is a rival of suite of Microsoft Office applications.
Besides being a role model for Governments, the European Commission is one of the largest purchasers of software on the continent.