Recently in Open Standards & Open Source Category

Portugal's prescribed open standards - full list

| No Comments
| More
arrow5.pngSee below for the most comprehensive list of mandatory open standards known to man: the software standards Portugal passed into law this week.

While the UK left punters wondering how it would enforce its own open standards mandate, in Portugal it is now illegal to do anything else. If you do business in Portugal - and some people do - and you do business in the public sector - and a lot of those who do, do - this is how you do it henceforward. If you don't the government will simply be unable to buy your software.

It took Portugal's administration a year to put the finishing touches to this list, following an extensive public consultation - about two to three years work in all. But when you get down to the nitty gritty, is it just a statement of the bleedin' obvious?

What difference does it ma-a-ake

ODF was the acronym on everyone's lips when Portugal published the list this week. The mandation of an open document standard might have wide repurcussions in a world where local authorities like Bristol have claimed they can't use anything but Microsoft because all their major business systems communicate using Microsoft's proprietary document format. The UK's coalition government has been harping on about this since before it came to power in 2010. It still hasn't simply mandated ODF.

Some of Portugal's other prescribed standards will also make a difference, insists Gustavo Homem, president of the Portuguese Open Source Business Association (ESOP).

"Email/groupware servers will have to offer SMTP, IMAP, CALDAV and LDAP, so you can't lock things up in a single brand "server + client" monolith," he says. "Public websites have to comply to HTML+CSS. There can be no excuses now for IE-only websites."

Portugal hopes also that its GIS standards will lead to raw GIS data becoming a common public currency.

Homem says it shows government is taking IT reform seriously. "This is incomparable to the situation 5 years ago," he says. Now the country only has to change the idiotic purchasing habits of an entire generation.


Even in the UK, where the open standards policy relies for its fate entirely on the strength of the Cabinet Office, there is hope from even the most wisened quarters that its a step that will be followed by other steps in the right direction.

"I'd like to put it down as a good start," says Gerry Gavigan, chairman of the Open Source Consortium, a UK trade body.

In Portugal, like the UK, government policy was said to have been derailed by intense lobbying from proprietary software vendors, led by Microsoft, whose cash cow is its hold over the standards of communication in public computing. That's why it took so long. Because the devil will find work for idle hands to do.

But that's just ODF. There are 30 standards in this list. They form the architectural blueprint for the future of public computing. That's the idea, anyway.

Data formats, including codes of characters, sound formats and images (still and moving), audio, graphic data

Standard Description Status Deadline Info
SQL Structured Query Language Obligatory 6 February 2013
PNG Portable Network Graphics Recommended n/a
SVG Scalable Vector Graphics Obligatory 6 February 2013
XML Extensible Markup Language Obligatory 6 February 2013
XSLT 2.0 XSL Transformations Obligatory 6 February 2013
XSD XML Schema Definition Obligatory 6 February 2013
XSL 1.1 Extensible Stylesheet Language Obligatory 6 February 2013
XMPP Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol Obligatory 6 February 2013
UTF-8 8-bit Unicode Transformation Format Obligatory 6 February 2013

Document formats (structured and unstructured) and content management, including document management

Standard Description Status Deadline Info
ODF 1.1 Open Document Format v1.1 (Second Edition) Obligatory Citizen Docs: 6 February 2013 / Other docs: 1 July 2014
PDF 1.7 Portable Document Format Obligatory 6 February 2013
XML 1.0 Extensible Markup Language Obligatory 6 February 2013
HTML 4.01 Hypertext Markup Language Obligatory 6 February 2013

Technologies web interface, including accessibility, ergonomics, compatibility and integration services

Standard Description Status Deadline Info
ATOM 1.0 Atom Syndication Format 1.0 Obligatory 6 February 2013
CalDav Calendaring Extensions to web DAV (CalDAV) Obligatory 1 July 2014 2014
CSS2.1 Cascading Style Sheets 2.1 Obligatory 6 February 2013
HTML 4.01 Hypertext Markup Language Obligatory 6 February 2013
HTTP/1.1 Hypertext Transfer Protocol Obligatory 6 February 2013
HTTPS Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure Obligatory 6 February 2013
Javascript 1.5 Javascript 1.5 Recommended n/a Website
WCAG 2.0 -- nível «A» Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 -- nível «A» Obligatory 6 February 2013
WCAG 2.0 -- nível «AA» Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 -- nível «AA» Obligatory 6 February 2013
WCAG 2.0 -- nível «AA» ou «AAA» Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 -- nível «AA» ou «AAA» Recommended n/a
WCAG 2.0 -- nível «AAA» Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 -- nível «AAA» Recommended n/a
WebDAV Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning Access Control Protocol Recommended n/a
XML 1.0 Extensible Markup Language Obligatory 6 February 2013
XSL v1.1 XML stylesheet language XSL v1.1 Obligatory 6 February 2013

Streaming protocols for transmission of sound and moving images in real time, including transportation and distribution of content and services point to point

Standard Description Status Deadline Info
RTSP Real Time Streaming Protocol Obligatory 6 February 2013

Electronic mail protocols, including access to content and extensions, and instant messaging services

Standard Description Status Deadline Info
IMAP 4 Internet Message Access Protocol Obligatory 6 February 2013
MIME RFC 2045, 2046, 2047 -- Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions Obligatory 6 February 2013
POP3 RFC 1939 -- Post Office Protocol Obligatory 6 February 2013
POP3S, IMAPS RFC 2595 Using TLS with IMAP, POP3 and ACAP Recommended n/a
SMTP Simple Mail Transfer Protocol -- RFC 5321 Obligatory 6 February 2013
SMTPS RFC 3207 SMTP Service Extension for Secure SMTP over Transport Layer Security - Recommended n/a

Geographic information systems, including cartography, digital cadastre, surveying and modeling

Standard Description Status Deadline Info
WCS Web Coverage Service Obligatory 6 February 2013
WFS Web Feature Service Obligatory 6 February 2013
WMS Web Map Service Obligatory 6 February 2013
WPS Web Processing Service Obligatory 6 February 2013

Technical specifications and communication protocols in computer networks

Standard Description Status Deadline Info
IPV6 Internet Protocol, Version 6 (IPv6) Recommended n/a

Technical specifications of security for networks, services, applications and documents

Standard Description Status Deadline Info
TLS 1.0 Transport Layer Security Obligatory 1 January 2014

Technical specifications and integration protocols, data exchange and process orchestration inter-agency business integration

Standard Description Status Deadline Info
BPMN 2.0 Business Process Model and Notation Recommended n/a
HTTP/1.1 Hypertext Transfer Protocol Obligatory 6 February 2013
HTTPS Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure Obligatory 6 February 2013
LDAP Lightweight Directory Access Protocol Obligatory 6 February 2013
SAML 2.0 Security Assertion Markup Language 2.0 Obligatory 6 February 2013
SOAP 1.1 Simple Object Access Protocol 1.1 Obligatory 6 February 2013
WS-Addressing 1.0 Web Services Addressing Obligatory 6 February 2013
WS-RM 1.1 WS-Reliable Messaging 1.1 Recommended n/a
WS-Security 1.2 Web Services Security 1.2 Recommended n/a
WS-Security Username Token Profile 1.0 WS-Security Username Token Profile 1.0 Recommended n/a

UK insists open standards order will apply to COTS

| No Comments
| More
The UK government has insisted its open standards order will require proprietary commercial software suppliers use open standards in all government systems, despite the edict not actually saying anything about commercial software, and even appearing to exclude it.

If UK open standards policy - introduced Thursday - will indeed do what the government says it will, it will break the primary means commercial software suppliers use to assert monopoly power over their customers.

Such a move would be a landmark in the history of computing. But the government slipped it out out with muted fanfare last week, and then did its best to avoid answering awkward questions about it.

The crucial question is why the policy neglected to address commercial or off-the shelf software (COTS) producers explicitly, when its extent was otherwise stated clearly for every possible eventuality where pressure or convenience might cause government bodies to ignore the open standards order.

COTS companies Microsoft and Oracle, who dominate UK public IT spend, had opposed the open standards policy so fiercely they caused the government to hold it back for two and a half years. The policy was about breaking their hold over public sector IT in the first place. Their opposition had nearly succeeded in burying the policy altogether. Now it had been published it didn't mention them at all. Had they been given a get out?

Other crucial questions included whether the Cabinet Office has any power to impose the policy without enacting legislation, and whether the intransigence of COTS producers will make them automatically eligible for official exemptions built into the scheme.

Say one thing

The Cabinet Office insisted its policy would extend over COTS producers.

"The Open Standards Principles document is clear that for all new government IT expenditure government bodies must specify compulsory open standards, unless an exemption has been agreed," said a Cabinet Office spokeswoman.

"As we consider there is no difference between COTS and bespoke systems in this regard, we have not further specified any difference in the Open Standards Principles," she added.

Computer Weekly has nevertheless learned through unofficial channels that the Cabinet Office is now examining ways to append an official clarification to the policy, to address COTS producers explicitly.

The Cabinet Office might say it applies. But on paper it may not.

The Open Standards Principles decreed 40 "absolute requirements" for open standards in government computer systems. Some of these may have some influence over government purchase of COTS software. But the carefully-worded document did not claim explicit power over COTS. It even appeared to exclude it.

Gerry Gavigan, chairman of the Open Source Consortium, a software trade group, said questions must be asked about why the policy was "silent on COTS".

He said the Cabinet Office might also be unable to enforce the policy unless it enacted it in legislation. It would anyway only apply to central government departments. Most public sector IT spend occurred elsewhere.

"Gruyere has a lower hole density," he said. "But none of this would matter if the intention is there."

Official view

Graham Taylor, chair of Open Forum Europe, an open software trade body backed by Oracle, and who has been industry's main liaison and collaborator with the Cabinet Office policy team, said he believed the open standards policy would apply to COTS.

The policy might not have addressed COTS directly. But a policy background paper had given vague attention to a COTS question that had been asked in the UK's public consultation on open standards, also published last Thursday.

The government said in the backgrounder it had some sympathy for the idea that its policy should apply to COTS as well as bespoke government systems. It did not say it would. Just that an overwhelming majority of people in the public consultation said it should.

The backgrounder, the government's response to the consultation, said this rationale "would appear to be appropriate."

It did not matter to Taylor that this rationale had not been turned into an explicit clause in the policy.

"Buying a piece of software off-the-shelf is no different in terms of the principles to going out to a tender on an integration contract or something," he said.

He believed it the policy didn't need to be explicit about COTS. It included a clause that would require government departments to specify open standards in their procurement frameworks. He believed this was enough.

The policy also restated oft-ignored EU procurement regulations that should normally prevent COTS producers being handed undue power in public procurements: it re-forbade public bodies from using trade names as parameters in procurement competitions.

All of these conditions - that did not explicitly apply to COTS but did at least imply that they might - would also be subject to exemptions. Government departments could opt-out of their implied obligations to apply the policy to COTS when they thought there was no choice but to ignore them.

It could be imagined, for example, that a software monopoly that effectively imposed its own proprietary standard as the market standard, might prevent open standards emerging or might simply prove unmovable, or might give cursory support for open standards that would win a contract but prove so unworkable in practice that a revert to its own standard would be inevitable.

Say another

The Cabinet Office fumbled over the question of COTS on Friday. It excused the policy with the same reasoning Oracle's open software campaign group did: that the powers implied in the policy backgrounder were enough: that an explicit power in the policy was unnecessary.

This did not make sense for a policy that had been necessarily pedantic. The government had conducted a two-and-a-half year review to settle a semantic question that had been at the centre of its conflict with COTS suppliers: the question of what an open standard actually is.

The pedantic policy also clarified the semantics of its own language so there could be no uncertainty that when its principles stated something "must" be done this was an "absolute requirement"; and when they stated that something "should" be done, it was conditional. It left no stone unturned in the specification of requirements it said government government bodies to meet to be compliant with the policy. Furthermore, the government's two-and-a-half-year review had been motivated by a fear that its policy might be subject to a legal threat from COTS producers if it didn't get it right.

COTS was conspicuous for its absence.

The policy's intention, however, was clear. Government bodies would be required to build open standards into their user requirements. They would work as a community on the identification and promotion of compulsory open standards. A complex set of requirements would ensure they put enough thought into their choice of standards, so they faced the same sort of economic and systems questions that had led the government to back open standards in the first place.

When the government later clarified its position on COTS, it said it was obvious that in respect of all these measures COTS would get the same treatment as bespoke software. So it did not need to distinguish between them in the policy, it reckoned.

And anyway, said a Cabinet Office spokeswoman, the policy said it would apply to "all new government IT expenditure". That meant COTS as well as bespoke systems.

But it had defined "all government IT expenditure" as "new systems" or "extensions to existing systems". That implied not COTS. It also implied the inherent difference between COTS and not COTS: possession, power and influence.

So when it came down to brass tacks, in the face of intransigent and potentially litigious COTS producers and procurement officers given to the path of least resistance, would the open standards policy apply to COTS or not?

UK goes royalty-free... but not for COTS

| More
230px-Moses041.jpgThe UK laid down the law on software standards yesterday, finally fulfilling a policy commitment that has floundered for more than than two and a half years.

The government ordered public bodies to purge their computer systems of proprietary software standards, those data formats and interfaces over which dominant software companies had made property claims established under US patent law.

It decreed that public bodies must instead implement non-proprietary, open standards; under rules it had codified so tightly that it left little room for doubt that it had at last found the courage of its convictions.

Well, almost. The policy didn't appear to apply to "commercial, off-the-shelf software", those ubiquitous, proprietary software packages against which government had formulated its open standards policy in the first place. It was written in reference only to bespoke systems. But let's not spoil the party by picking hairs, for a moment at least.

Disregarding COTS, the policy was far cry from the prevarication that has characterised UK technology policy since 2010, when the coalition was elected. The government committed its open standards pledge to paper in 2011. The proprietary software industry immediately protested at what would amount to the confiscation of its means to assert monopoly power. The protest was led by COTS suppliers Microsoft and Oracle. The government's resolve was so weak it recanted.


Now reinstated, UK policy promises to stand as a fortification against the US software patent system's seemingly irrepressible colonisation of European computing and law. (As long as you disregard COTS, of course).

If the UK had not got its mojo back and revived its policy the collapse of Europe's prohibition on software patents would have been certain. Brussels had already pawned its own open standards policy.

Yet after such a fitful beginning it must be asked whether the government had ever invested any more faith in open standards than was necessary to sell election-winning ideas to voters, and whether it has now found only enough resolve to paint a papier-mâché policy in bold colours to silence critics, while kicking the heart of the matter into the long grass.

Papier Mache Egg.pngThe heart of the matter was semantics: if you took what was by definition a proprietary standard and called it an open standard, would it dupe everyone when put at the heart of an open standards policy? This was the central question the Cabinet Office used to justify 17 months of almost perpetual public consultation and industry debate. It was so absurd that a papier-mâché resolution seemed inevitable.

Indeed the heart of the matter was well hidden when the government announced the reformation of its policy yesterday.


Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude announced the details at a private conference barred to the press. His PR department issued the usual promotional guff, neglecting to mention how it had resolved the key policy question. Its technology spokesman took a holiday. Its press department claimed ignorance and snubbed requests for information. It leaked the announcement to the press selectively.

The heart of the matter was hidden deep within in a policy document that itself been placed obscurely.

Public bodies must use open standards that comply with the government's definition, it said: see footnote.

There is a definition, said the footnote, but: see glossary.

There are many ways to define an open standard, said the glossary - for ours: see annex.

An open standard, said the annex, is one that is royalty free - one that effectively gives no credence to property claims.

This was a resounding victory for the open movement, for the government, and for common sense. But the Cabinet Office had buried the nub so deeply that you could be forgiven for thinking it had something to hide.

Perhaps it hadn't found heart enough to see the policy through. This was the question the Cabinet Office refused to answer when it first declared for open standards in 2010: what power did it have to tell government bodies what technology they should purchase? What sanction could it enforce if they refused?

Francis Maude.pngThose non-plebeians privileged with an audience with Maude yesterday morning were given the message unequivocally.


"Our Open Standards Principles... set out that Royalty Free open standards are key to levelling the playing field for open source and proprietary software in government IT," he told them.

Any residual doubt about his sincerity was eradicated by the "principles" themselves: the most authoritarian system of administrative dogma put to paper since Moses took a retirement job as food-ration monitor on a Kibbutz.

The principles contained within them 40 commandments the Cabinet Office said government bodies "must" implement as "an absolute requirement".

Each accounted for a different loophole through which a proprietary software company might inject one of its own standards into the UK's computing infrastructure.

Government bodies must write their choice of open standards into their systems specifications and procurement frameworks, it said. It would make no difference if they built their own systems or outsourced the work.

Existing systems would be marked for decommissioning if they could not be made complaint. Government accounting officers would be required to publish "legacy" exit strategies and commit to a deadline. They would have to seek approval for exemptions with detailed justifications.

Senior Responsible Owners of public IT projects would be made accountable for open standards and asked to base their decisions on a complex set of user, economic and legal criteria. All meetings and justifications would be published.


John Winthrop.jpgIt seemed almost puritanical. It envisaged a community of public bodies conjoined by open standards, their disparate computer systems acting as one body, united under the covenant handed down to them in the Open Standards Principles.

This was the problem for protesting proprietary software suppliers, whose opposition was based in the enlightenment values of the market. The UK had no right to impose its authority on their property rights. There was a threat of legal action.

It came down ultimately to a question of liberty. But the answer was not straightforward and the Cabinet Office may have fluffed it.

Those users, software programmers, open source companies, public bodies and treasury officials who laboured under the imposition of monopoly rents proprietary software producers had claimed over standards might have found their own recourse in John Locke, the father of American Liberty: that they might not "be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man"; that they might not constrained as slaves, under the dominion of will, or restraint of US [software patent] law. Technology had not turned property into an imposition in Locke's time, not directly anyway.

The Cabinet Office may not have seen this when it slipped out its statement on open standards yesterday. Proprietary software producers had stuck dogmatically to the idea that government must allow them to do as they please.

The Cabinet Office therefore presented its policy as its own right, as a customer, to determine how it spent the £16bn-a-year it did on computing. Its policy made no direct imposition on the market.


The UK Open Standards Principles nevertheless contained among their 40 commandments, by which it had so carefully covered every eventuality, no reference to commercial, off-the-shelf software.

Its "absolute" requirements - those decrees of what departments "must" do - would apply to "document formats". But no more. The policy was about IT projects. It imposed no requirements on government purchasers of COTS.

The Cabinet Office was today unable to say whether this was an oversight or an intentional omission. A spokeswoman insisted the government had committed to apply open standards to COTS in its response to the public consultation which it also published yesterday.

But it had not. 82 per cent of people who responded to the consultation said the open standards policy should treat COTS just the same as it treated bespoke software.

The government response document said merely that this point of view "would appear to be appropriate".

But this view was not appropriate enough for the government to make it an "absolute" commandment in its policy document, the UK Open Standards Principles.

If there was any doubt about this, the reader could refer to the annex, where along with the definition of open standards the Cabinet Office had set out in no uncertain terms the semantics of the very specific language it had used in its decrees.

Thumbnail image for Oracle package.jpegThere it said "must" meant "absolute requirement". There was also "should", which was not absolute: it meant "recommended", and described those instances where the Cabinet Office conceded that there might good reason why a government department could not use open standards.

It didn't even bother with "would appear to be appropriate". We all know what that means.

UK open standards and the proprietary ecosystem

| No Comments
| More
Thumbnail image for Oak Tree Ecosystem.jpgThe coalition government was elected on the promise that it would resolve the notorious problems that had turned public sector IT into a disaster story.

It expressed some firm ideas. Then it had second thoughts. Now two and a half years on, its flagship policy has stalled.

What happens next will depend on the results of a public consultation, due imminently. The government's dilemma is how to implement the policy.

The question for the consultation is what the policy really means.

Essentially a Conservative policy, it held that the IT market was stagnant: IT projects were expensive because a lack of competition had inflated prices; IT projects were disastrous because technology itself had also stagnated. Since there was no competition, there was little innovation. And since there was little innovation, there was no competition.

The government's founding coalition agreement said in 2010 it would solve both problems. It would back open source software, a disruptive technology that was cheap and innovative. And it would promote competition by breaking public IT contracts up into smaller components.


George Osborne with Liam Maxwell.pngThe man behind the reforms, deputy government CIO Liam Maxwell, insists government has made progress.

This progress was demonstrated last week, he says, when the government launched, a website. It was built using open source tools.

Maxwell reckons the government has also cut £400m off its ICT bill of around £16bn by breaking some of its larger contracts up.

Yet the keystone of both these policies has still to be put in place. That is a third policy - its policy on open standards. Without it, the government IT strategy is a dead duck. It could neither remove the market barriers to open source software nor break its IT systems up in the way it wants if it didn't have open standards.

The problem was described recently by your correspondent in another place, thus:

"The market problem had been derived in the first place from technology's inherent need to work together, as a coherent system. The way it did that was using standards of communication, so one part of the system could co-operate with another, sharing applications, functions and data.

"The problem was that technology markets had coagulated into competing ecosystems based on their own proprietary standards. Dominant ecosystems used their standards to lock competitors out, stagnating the market.

"The coalition proposed that it would place government functions and data in the broadest possible ecosystem to ensure no single supplier or technology was so powerful that it couldn't be swapped with any other.

Thus contracts could be disaggregated and dominant suppliers replaced without causing problems for existing systems, while open source software could be deployed because it wouldn't be locked out by a proprietary ecosystem's standards.

"The government would do this by employing open standards - standards that can be used by any market participant and implemented in any technology without restraint."

But the three leading vendors of proprietary ecosystems - Apple, Microsoft and Oracle - opposed the policy.

They protested. They wanted the right to make proprietary claims on open standards, by claiming royalty payments. The government had said the thing that distinguished an open standard was that it did not countenance proprietary claims. The matter will be settled when the government publishes the results of its consultation.

Proprietary ecosystems

Microsoft has meanwhile sought to explain its opposition to UK policy by claiming its dominant proprietary ecosystem benefits the economy.

Asked to explain its position, it pointed to a 2009 study by IDC that said its Windows ecosystem would generate £18bn of revenues for UK companies that year.

For every £1 of revenue Microsoft generated in the UK, its supply chain partners would do £8.84 of business. Across Europe, companies in Microsoft's ecosystem would generate €110bn revenues.

Thumbnail image for For every $ spent by Microsoft in Europe.pngBut a study published by the United Nations University Institute for Advanced Studies found that for every €1 spent on proprietary software - in an ecosystem defined by proprietary standards - €0.86 went back up the supply chain to a company outside Europe.

In contrast, said the UN study, spending on open source software - operating necessarily in an ecosystem delimited by open standards - resulted in about three times the amount of money staying in the region where it was invested.

Its numbers had apparently proven the point that always seemed obviously so: the owner of a proprietary ecosystem would enjoy the spoils, though his cronies might get rich too. He wouldn't get nearly as rich if he joined the open standards ecosystem, but a lot more people would get a share of the spoils.

Carlo Daffara -£80bn

Carlo Daffara, the study's author, says his further calculations show that the UK saves about £80bn-a-year by using open source software. This figure is unpublished. You read it here first.

The saving comes, he says, from the way in which open source software is developed: collaboratively, with applications and functional components being shared freely, so anyone can adapt them or deploy them in their own systems.

It's the re-use that saves money, as Maxwell had been saying when pushing these ideas in Conservative technology policy papers. It also makes software less prone to error. Both advantages rely on open standards.

This was the basis of UK policy. But the government has been hiding in a bunker since the conflict between proprietary technology companies and their open source competitors became a battle of global proportions.

This conflict has made the UK look like an island, and the government seem ready to become a cowardly appeaser. It made a bold stand. But there is a strong likelihood that the Cabinet Office will abandon its open standards policy or fudge it in a way that makes it look one way and act another.

But the Cabinet Office should take heart after the humble appearance of Sir Tim Berners-Lee at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics.

Sir Tim had of course created the greatest of all the world's technology ecosystems, the World Wide Web. He has written that the Web's inestimable commercial and cultural benefits were possible only because it was built using open standards. He appeared at the Olympics like a benign master of ceremonies, gently waving from the centre of a whirlwind of steroids and trumpery, like the personal embodiment of open standards: miraculous and fragile, yet when defended resolutely, triumphant.

MPs get in a funk over open source

| No Comments
| More
Conservative Open Source Report Summary - Front Page - Mark Thompson - 27 JAN 2009.pngThe Conservative's open source technology strategy may have reached its culmination at a low water mark with the coalition government's renegotiated contract with Computer Sciences Corporation.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude and chancellor George Osborne presented open source software as the antidote to the Labour government's "catastrophic" NHS National Programme for IT - and a recipe for cheaper and less botched government computing all round - when they launched their technology strategy in 2009.

Now four years on, what they have done instead is reconfirm £2bn the £2.9bn contract CSC originally signed under Labour, and dropped that bit of it that would have given them the means to open source the goods.

But the original Conservative tech policy was floated on a stream of opportunistic press leaks and anchored with a fishy tie-in with the then Conservative Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee chair Edward Leigh.

The coalition government's lack of progress since raises questions about whether it is prepared to put its weight behind the policy.


A party insider told Computer Weekly the NHS element of Conservative open source policy was spun to latch on to then current news about NPfIT - the National Programme, Labour's NHSIT disaster.

George Osborne - Edit.pngOsborne floated his open source policy on 27 January 2009, the same day the Public Accounts Committee published a report warning NPfIT wouldn't be delivered till 2015, four years late and at a cost of £12.7bn, because of BT and CSC in particular.

The weekend before the Public Accounts Committee released its report, Osborne's team did a last minute edit of his unpublished 2007 open source policy backgrounder.
Francis Maude - Edit.pngThe day the committee report came out, Osborne leaked his backgrounder to the tech press.

It had in fact been gathering dust in Osborne's draw for nearly two years. It was now unofficial Conservative policy: open source software would cut IT costs and "free government bodies from long-term, monopoly supply situations" such as its NPfIT contracts with BT and CSC.

A week later, The Times newspaper and Computer Weekly scooped the nethermost reserves of poop from the bottom of the Conservative policy headquarters' mudslinging barrel and slung them right in the then Labour government's bullseye.

It was a big bullseye. IT bodges had been par for the course since Labour took office in 1997.

The Times' had done an exclusive investigation of government IT bodges. But it was old news. The paper had dug right down into the archives, dragged up a clutch of rotten old IT bodges and slapped them up as an exclusive investigation.


Leigh was so gullibly outraged he told The Times: "As a result of The Times' investigation I am going to immediately ask the Comptroller and Auditor-General [the head of the NAO] to investigate the whole matter of government IT spending and in particular the contracts highlighted in the paper."

The old dog must have had a short memory, because he forgot to mention he had already handled most of these IT bodges as chair of the Public Accounts Committee. And that's how The Times and Computer Weekly new about them in the first place.

The Times' investigation, published on 2 February, involved simply taking a bunch of old stories about IT budget over-runs and adding up the numbers. It said the total cost of Labour IT budget over-runs was over £18bn.

Edward Leigh and Dog.jpgBut £10bn of that came from the NPfIT cost over-run the NAO recorded in a report it had submitted to Leigh's committee three years before, in 2006. The NAO reviewed the situation again in May 2008 and stuck it in another report to Leigh's committee. After conducting its usual hearings into the 2008 NAO report, the committee then produced its usual report about the NAO report. That's the report the committee had published on 27 January - one that Leigh had been talking about in all the papers.

Now a week later, he was calling for the NAO to produce a report about The Times' report about his committee's report about the NAO report about NPfIT, as though it was the first he had heard of it. It was an outrage. It really was.

More outrage

Most of the rest of The Times' £18bn budget over-runs had come from HMRC's Aspire contract with Capgemini. The NAO had reported on this one in 2007. So had Leigh's Committee. So had the press.

Leigh had said in a 2007 committee press statement "the forecast figure is some £8.5 billion...compared with the original estimate of nearly £3 billion". Now two years on, The Times had reported it again. Leigh was outraged.

And most of the rest of The Times' £18bn came from the publication just 18 days before of Leigh's own committee report into the Ministry of Defence's Defence Information Infrastructure. That was about £5bn over-budget - a terrible state of affairs, really. But The Times' had learned about it from Leigh's committee, and they had both got it from the NAO about six months before. Now The Times was regurgitating it again, and Leigh was outraged like it was the first he'd heard of it.

Most of the rest of the £18bn came from Leigh's Committee's 2003 report into the Courts Service Libra project. Libra's cost had more than doubled to £400m, said Leigh in 2003, drawing from NAO numbers given him earlier. The cost had more than doubled to £500m, said The Times in January 2009, drawing from Leigh's earlier work. Leigh was outraged.

The rest of The Times' investigation regurgitated old news about three cancellations: a DWP benefits processing system from 2006, and police and passport websites from 2007. Ah and there was the National Offender Management Information System - then still work-in-progress for the NAO. Leigh was outraged.


Leigh was so forgetful that no sooner had he called for an NAO investigation of The Times' investigation of the committee report on the NAO report than the whole idea of an NAO investigation was forgotten, like it had never even been officially proposed at all.

It hadn't. The NAO recorded no official request from Leigh for such an investigation. The NAO in fact never conducts general studies. So it says. So Leigh's committee would have been surprised if the NAO had done a general report into government IT bodges, because it has for the last 30 years worked to a Standing Order by which it examines about 40 of those non-general NAO reports every year.

This was all nevertheless important enough for Osborne to pitch in with a commentary in The Times on 3 February.

Osborne said: "Yesterday's report in The Times that government...IT is running nearly £19 billion over budget was genuinely shocking".

It seemed nobody had read any of Leigh's old committee reports. Or they were so far back on his shelf that everyone else had forgotten about them as well.

But at least Osborne had an answer to this old problem that he had known nothing of till The Times regurgitated it.

The solution, he said, was to stop handing out big IT contracts to the same old big suppliers and break them up into manageable chunks using open source software and open standards. Maude, then head of the Conservative Party's Implementation Unit, was to lead the work.

Now nearly four years on, the coalition government has still to reach a significant milestone on either its open source or open standards policies.

The big departments of state have continued to sign large contracts with the same old large suppliers. The same old large suppliers have opposed the coalition's open source and open standards policies, just as they oppose the contract transparency the coalition government promised as well.

The Tory top team may have been so desperate to put nails in Labour's coffin in 2009 that it would have said anything to get the vote - even that it would use open source software. The two parties were clambering over one another to make the most convincing noises about IT bodges. Labour's own open source policy had been gathering dust for years.

NHS gives up rights over patient software

| No Comments
| More
The Department for Health has given up rights over software delivered under the National Programme for IT.

It secured ownership of the NHS programme's intellectual property in 2003 as contractual insurance against the project going wrong. Now the project has gone wrong, it no longer has the insurance.

The Department admitted it no longer had rights over software delivered by Computer Sciences Corporation after it agreed earlier this month an interim resolution to a protracted contract disagreement over the suppliers' failure to deliver NHS software.

The Conservative-led coalition government had made public ownership of software IP the central plank of IT reforms it promised when running for election, when the now chancellor George Osborne said the NHS programme's failure demonstrated the need for government to build systems using open source software.

But by failing to retain rights over NHS software, the government has ensured private rights holders will call the shots in a primary area of public cyberspace.

The Department for Health has rebuffed repeated questions for further information about NHS IP for the last three weeks. It also continues to deflect questions about its renegotiated contract with CSC, which is estimated to be worth £2bn of public money.

The outcome will be that after 10 years of software development - done to public order and paid with billions of pounds of public money - the public will not have bought anything tangible at all.

Yet NHS Connecting for Health had ensured the department would "own the specially written software" delivered under NPfIT, said the National Audit Office in a 2006 report into the programme. This was presented one of four "key safeguards" against project failure.

Parliament verified the ownership safeguard during hearings held in 2008 by the Public Accounts Committee. In a hearing on 16 June 2008, John Pugh MP, now a member of the coalition government, sought assurances that the NHS had indeed secured rights over software delivered under the programme.

Gordon Hextall, then chief operating officer at NHS Connecting for Health, told the Committee: "We certainly own the intellectual property rights, so the intellectual property rights remain with the NHS."

Nevertheless, the Department of Health told Computer Weekly: "CSC will keep the rights to the software after the contract has ended and any licence extensions have been used."

Suppliers may have misled government over what the protection the IP ownership safeguard would really give them.

Dr Tony Shannon, who worked at Connecting for Health on NPfIT requirements and systems design for five years from 2004, said: "Nobody was in a position to challenge the [ownership safeguard claims] because they didn't understand the nuances of software."

In this state of ignorance, the NHS probably secured ownership only over the specification of its requirements for the system - not the system itself, said Shannon, who is working to implement open source software as Clinical Lead for Informatics at Leeds Teaching Hospital.

It must now be asked whether the government actually gave up its rights to NPfIT software or whether it or the public were misled about what the IP safeguard would give them.

Like the Department for Health, CSC has been ignoring Computer Weekly's questions on this matter for more than three weeks. It sent an emailed statement earlier this week, claiming it owned the Lorenzo patient administration system it developed to serve the NHS.

This much is common knowledge. No matter what the Department for Health told Parliament about its rights over NPfIT software, it is obvious NHS has not secured any rights over NPfIT software at all.

Computer Weekly asked both CSC and BT, the other NPfIT supplier, to explain how they ended up bagging ownership when both the NAO and the Department of Health had claimed the contract ensured they would not.

CSC has ignored Computer Weekly's further attempts at communication. CSC's system, called Lorenzo, was developed using UK public money, to a specification designed by doctors and health informatics experts across the country, but is wholly owned by a US corporation.

BT refused to comment about the issue at all. It said the question of its IP ownership over NHS software was a private matter between it and the government.

"It's commercially sensitive," said a BT spokesman.

"This doesn't show contempt for the public at all," he insisted when Computer Weekly pressed him to explain why BT's public contract did not make it publicly accountable.

"Our contract is with the National Health," he said.

If suppliers misled government over what the IP safeguard would deliver, this would amount to a shark card to claim private rights over a public space.

But the government and Department of Health may themselves have misled Parliament and the public over the IP issue.

The National Audit Office said the IP safeguard it described in 2006 had, like all the details in its reports, been signed off by the department.

An NAO spokesman was, however, unable to say whether it had cut-and-pasted the safeguard verbatim from a departmental submission, or whether it was condensed from its own analysis.

How Europe did 20 years of backroom deals with Microsoft
2003: Turn on, lock-in, clean out

| No Comments
How Europe did 20 years of backroom deals with Microsoft
2003: Turn on, lock-in, clean out"> | More
Tripy.jpgEurope admitted it had developed an unhealthy dependency on Microsoft in 2003, ten years after it first installed Microsoft software on its computers. It vowed to do something about it. But it couldn't kick the habit.

This is no surprise when you look at the way the European Commission said in 2003 it would break free from Microsoft: we can reduce our dependence on Microsoft software, it said, by buying more Microsoft software.

This trippy reasoning was what European Commission's Directorate-General for Informatics (Digit) used in 2003 to justify doing yet another backroom deal with Microsoft, reveal documents disclosed to Computer Weekly.

The "purpose of the operation" was, said Digit, "The need to mitigate the [European Institutions'] dependence оn Microsoft software products".

European administrations, led by the Commission, had been buying Microsoft software without an open competition for a decade, in contracts known as negotiated procedures: deals done without informing tax payers and Microsoft competitors. It could only do such backroom deals with good justification.

Digit used one other ludicrous claim to justify the 2003 deal. It would promote the use of open source software in the European administrations, it said. In other words, buying Microsoft products in secret, without any competitive tendering, would promote the use of competing open source software.

Specifically, it said, the Microsoft deal would: "Prepare the ground for a scenario in which other technical solutions - particularly those based on Open Source Software (OSS) - may emerge as viable alternatives, not least because the Commission is actively promoting the use of OSS-based solutions in several policy areas," said the Evaluation Report in which Digit justified the fourth Microsoft deal on 8 December 2003.

It was absurd, junkie logic. And Digit, its official papers addled by its dependence on Microsoft, was making the same hopeless claims of reform: it would kick the habit if it could just get one more fix.

Closed minds

Digit's anticipation of open source alternatives echoed the caveats it made when it first moved its IT to Microsoft in 1992. It was done then in anticipation of the creation of open standards of software communication, which would prevent it becoming locked-in to Microsoft software using Microsoft standards.

The 2003 ambition was shown to be as fruitless as the 1992 ambition when nearly 10 years later again, on 21 October 2011, the Commission's Information Resources Managers for Infrastructure decided to upgrade to a Microsoft suite based on Windows 7 and Office 2010.

EU law permitted these backroom deals, but they were only permitted for three years. Digit in 2003 signed its fourth successive backroom deal with Microsoft since 1993. It would refresh Microsoft software infrastructure for 31,400 PCs and 850 servers, helping cement Microsoft's monopoly by endorsing it with the weakest of justifications.

There had in 2003 been a clamour for public administrations to consider open source software as an alternative to the Microsoft monopoly. Let aside that Digit claimed open source software was not mature enough to be taken seriously. Not only were national administrations demonstrating it was, but open source was not the only alternative to Microsoft. The appearance of open source in Digit's justifications for doing more backroom deals with Microsoft implied the only real choice was Microsoft or nothing: we've looked at this open source thing that people are talking about, but its not what its cracked up to be - hence we've got no choice but to do another backroom deal with Microsoft.

Thumbnail image for EC Digit - Evaluation Reports for Microsoft Negotiated Procedure - 4 JUL & 8 DEC 2003.pngIt gave the suggestion that Digit was taking software competition seriously. But it betrayed how Digit either did not understand or did not care that the conditions for competition in business were not enough to ensure competition in software. Software platforms had to be kept open just like EU rules said markets have to be kept open. But EU procurement rules didn't say Digit had to use open standards, only open procurement procedures. If the European Commission really wanted a competitive software market, it would have at least to back open standards as it said it did in 1992.

Open wallets

Digit instead became so complacent about its Microsoft deals that it didn't even bother opening backroom negotiations for its 2003 deal until four months before the last contract expired. When it did start talking to Microsoft it learned that Microsoft had changed the rules. It had changed its licence terms to lock customers in to a strict upgrade cycle, and to ensure its sales were more consistent.

This was perhaps the monopolist's prerogative. There was no evidence that Digit had really factored such disadvantages into its deliberations. Its negotiations over its renewal of Microsoft's contract dragged on unexpectedly because the new terms were so unfavourable. The new terms would make the EC pay in advance for future upgrades, making decisions like whether to adopt Windows 7 a done deal.

How Europe did 20 years of backroom deals with Microsoft
1999: Reseller cartel makes it nice and cosy

| No Comments
How Europe did 20 years of backroom deals with Microsoft
1999: Reseller cartel makes it nice and cosy"> | More
Osim Uastro Zero-Gravity Full-Body Massage Chair.jpgWhile prosecutors in Europe and the US struggled to restrain Microsoft's monopoly in the late 90s, their own compadres in the European Commission's Information Directorate demonstrated in gobsmacking style just what little difference they were making, even in their own back yard.

Within six months of both the US Department of Justice and the European Commission competition directorate making landmark anti-trust moves against Microsoft's monopoly in late 1998, the the EC Information Directorate (DIGIT) had moved to entrench and extend Microsoft's monopoly over its own computing infrastructure.

DIGIT was sticking Microsoft everywhere. And it no longer had to justify doing it without a competition - as it might when, say, buying comfy chairs.

The EC had found a particular brand of chair was especially comfortable, thank you very much. Why should it bother telling other chair suppliers when it was about to spend a few more millions of Euros on chairs, when it had no intention of giving them a chance to compete for the business?

Because the procurement rules said they should. And DIGIT's excuses for doing backroom deals with Microsoft were starting to sound a bit lame.

So DIGIT found a way round the procurement rules. It wouldn't need to justify its backroom Microsoft deals anymore because it wasn't going to buy its Microsoft software from Microsoft anymore. It was going to buy its Microsoft software from a Microsoft reseller.


This was a nice arrangement. It meant that for the first time in nearly a decade of buying Microsoft, the EC would have a fair and open competition to determine who got to supply the software that ran its PC infrastructure and tooled up its officials.

Well, a sort of competition. Only Microsoft resellers could compete to win the EC competition to find a Microsoft reseller. This somehow got past the procurement rules. A Microsoft reseller won the competition. It supplied the commission with Microsoft software.

There was just one snag, though. Microsoft had the market for Microsoft resellers tied up. So it could set the terms by which the EC did business with them. And it did.

So the EC found that after it had gone through all the cost and effort to run a public competition for a Microsoft reseller, it still had to do a backroom deal with Microsoft: to agree the prices and terms by which the Microsoft reseller would do business with the EC. It made the competition look like a bit of a sham.

"Microsoft offers different types of agreements under which price reductions and maintenance delivered by the resellers can be obtained," explained the EC report that claimed to justify doing another backroom deal with Microsoft.

"The reseller applies his margin on the retail price negotiated between the Commission and Microsoft," it said. These were Microsoft's procurement rules.

EC Informatics - Report to Advisory Committee on Contracts concerning Microsoft - 21 JUN 1999 - Splash.pngThe paperwork was more of a formality than usual. DIGIT made its Report to the Advisory Committee on Contracts Concerning Microsoft Software Products and Associated Services on 21 June - just nine days before the last Microsoft licensing agreement ran out.

There wasn't much bother about it all. The EC could only really gift its business to Microsoft after prospecting the market to ensure it really had no alternative. There would be no point running a competition for a software supplier if Microsoft was the only game in town.


As it happened, Microsoft did have a monopoly. It was therefore, to all effect, the only game in town.

It had in fact 95 per cent of the operating system market. It had a similar share of the market for office software. It was using its monopolies to extend into other areas of software like the internet, which had earned it a wrap on the knuckles from the US department for Justice just six months before. And it it was extending its monopoly into servers, a situation that the EC competition police were investigating at that very moment after complaints in 1998 from Microsoft rival Sun Microsystems. Microsoft wasn't really the only game in town. That's just how it seemed to procurement officers, and the market.

So DIGIT's market survey came up trumps for Microsoft:

"The Microsoft range of products and services used by the Commission is only available from Microsoft," it said.

"It is not possible to acquire similar products at the same level of quality from other suppliers," it said.

That was all it said. It was the usual justification for doing a backroom deal with Microsoft: only Microsoft could supply Microsoft.

But this matter of a Microsoft reseller confused matters. Did it mean that it was no longer the case that only Microsoft could supply Microsoft, but that only Microsoft could sell Microsoft software licences that could only be bought through Microsoft resellers through a fair competition open only to Microsoft resellers? The effect was the same.

How Europe did 20 years of backroom deals with Microsoft
1996: Only Microsoft can do Microsoft

| No Comments
How Europe did 20 years of backroom deals with Microsoft
1996: Only Microsoft can do Microsoft"> | More
Bill Gates at court in Utah.pngThe European Commission gave up pretending there were alternatives to Microsoft in 1996. It side-stepped new laws designed to keep public money honest, claiming exceptional circumstances. It gave Microsoft its business on a plate again.

The new law was Council Directive 93/36/EEC of 14 June 1993: coordinating procedures for the award of public supply contracts. It said public bodies had to be open about how they awarded public contracts, and give everyone a fair chance of competing for them.

Public bodies could ignore the rules and do backroom deals called negotiated procedures, said the new law. But only in "exceptional" circumstances.

Digit, the EC's Informatics Directorate, said Microsoft's exceptional circumstances were justfied under Article 6.3.c of the public contracts directive. This allowed it to contract Microsoft without telling anyone beforehand.

It could do this, "when, for technical or artistic reasons, or for reasons connected with protection of exclusive rights, the products supplied may be manufactured or delivered only by a particular supplier", said Article 6.3.c.

Digit said this meant it could do a "negotiated procedure without prior publication with the company SA Microsoft RV" because this happened to be "the only authorized representative of the products in Belgium and Luxembourg".

A backroom deal with Microsoft was justified therefore, because only Microsoft could supply Microsoft software.


Digit's original decision to buy Microsoft, in 1992, had stemmed from its moving the European administrations onto PCs. It actually did the deal in 1993, as it was enacting the public contracts directive. Microsoft's monopoly in PC operating systems was then well established. Only a year later, the Commission's competition police fingered Microsoft for abusing its power.

Yet Digit took it for granted that there would be Microsoft operating systems on its new PCs in 1993.

"During the first half of 1993, the Commission conducted negotiations with the firm for the purchase of Microsoft licenses for operating systems (DOS / Windows), following the selection of the architecture of PCs of the Commission, as well as office software (Word, Excel, ..)," said the Digit's documentation at the time. It gave no justification.

In 1993, Digit said, dubiously, it was doing backroom deals with both WordPerfect and Microsoft because only they could satisfy its needs for PC application software.


But it dropped WordPerfect before it had even finished rolling it out. Microsoft had used its operating systems muscle to give its PC applications a boost over competitors. Just last week, it got told off about this in court in Utah.

Novell, which owned WordPerfect in those days, had claimed damages for not having being Microsoft, which had become a handicap for Microsoft applications rivals by the time the European Commission was coming to refresh its desktop computers in 1995.

Novell lost the case last week, as it happens. It wanted damages for its operating systems business, not its applications business. The court was neverthless convinced Microsoft had given its own desktop applications an advantage on Windows 95.

Judge Frederick Motz.jpg"I recognize that this conclusion may appear somewhat disturbing because arguably it rewards Microsoft for unsavory behavior in the applications market," said Judge Motz as he threw Novell's case out on 16 July.

Microsoft had anyway stoked trouble for Novell's WordPerfect Office suite of applications in the mid-90s. Microsoft Office became a shoe-in at the European Commission.

Novell had trouble producing a version of Perfect Office that was compatible with Microsoft's Windows 95 operating system. It sold it to Corel in January 1996. Weeks later, the European Commission's Information Resources Management Board decided to give WordPerfect the boot and open backroom talks with Microsoft.

It was all going to be Microsoft now. There was no technical or market reason why - not that Digit could demonstrate. The Commission hadn't even got Windows 95 on its computers. It wasn't even necessarily going to get Windows 95, show documents released to Computer Weekly. Digit opened talks with Microsoft about whether it should migrate to 95 after kicking WordPerfect out. In hindsight it was clear that it would.

It was just simply all Microsoft: operating system, wordprocessor, spreadsheet, presentation package, database, email. In June 1996, a month after Corel released Perfect Office for Windows 95, Digit said it had done a backroom deal with Microsoft because only Microsoft could do Microsoft.

It reversed its 1992 decision to use WordPerfect as the standard format for document exchange as well. It had done this pending an industry standard being created. It standardised on Microsoft instead. Microsoft was the industry. Microsoft was the standard.


15 FEB 1996    EC decides to throw WordPerfect out and go all Microsoft

Draft minutes of Meeting Of Information Resources Management Board on Microsoft Licences - 15 FEB 1996 - splash.pngEUROPEAN COMMISSION
service support

Luxembourg, March 6, 1996
DI/MOL/bj D(96) 6736 rev.1



The Information Resources Management Board decided to migrate to word-processing WinWord 6, as follows:

- Until October 1996, a period of preparation is necessary to allow branches to accurately plan their needs and make all arrangements to receive the texts in the new format. During this period, the General Directorates WinWord WinWord 2.0 pass 6.0. The exchange format is WordPerfect 5.2,

- November 1996 to July 1997, the migration itself is done. During this period, the exchange format is that of the issuer, that is to say, WinWord or WordPerfect 5.2 or 6.0,

- Beyond July 1997, remains only the generalized exchange format WinWord 6.0,

- Calls on branches to prepare for March 31, 1996, the draft plans for migration

- Calls on the steering unit to integrate these plans into a comprehensive plan, as well as effector budget allocations and priority to report in July 1996

- Considers that the continuation and expansion of inter-institutional relations are essential to the Commission,

- To this end, the Directorates-General must comply with the rules of production of legislative documents as part of SEI-LEG as they migrate to WinWord 6,

- Supports the IT Department, in collaboration with the General Secrêiariat, develop, install and promote the software SEI-LEG I in branches, and to ensure its use for the production of documents legislator,

- Request that the financing plan for SEI-LEG is validated and consolidated

- Request that the resources actually required multi-year project are allocated annually,

- Note that this allocation does not prejudice the possibility of using the formula of the redeployment, which could be offered at the College given the advantages of a unified office in the Directorates-General and the Translation Service.


17 JUN 1996    Commission makes new Microsoft deal official

European Commission Report On Procurement And Contracts To Purchase Microsoft Licenses - 17 JUN 1996 - splash.pngProcurement file
CCAM (96) 234

Logistical support and training
Brussels, 17 June 1996
DI/SLF/CTR-IZ /cc 96_301



3.1. Origin of operation

Action arising from the administrative / continuation of a previous action.

3.2. Objective of the action

During the first half of 1993, the Commission conducted negotiations with the firm for the purchase of Microsoft licenses for operating systems (DOS / Windows), following the selection of the architecture of PCs of the Commission, as well as office software (Word, Excel, ..). As of July 1, 1993, a contract was signed with Microsoft, based on the opinion CCAM * No 213/93 (see anneхе I).

February 15, 1996, IRMB decided to choose the product WinWord 6 of Microsoft as word processing unique to the Commission (Annex 2 item 4.2) and abandon the product used WP on the Commission and had the subject of a separate agreement (Notice 105/93 CCAM, see Annex I).

During the past few months negotiating with the firm of Microsoft were conducted by the IT Department with the following objectives:

- Define the terms of the migration WordPerfect - Word (harmonization with the desktop Office suite of office);

- Specify the conditions for migration to a new technical platform (operating system of the client / Windows 95 or NT not yet determined, study in progress);

- Get the price per user decreases and the cost of maintenance to compensate for the increase in the number of users;

- Apply the same financial terms to the other institutions.


Under the provisions of Article 6.3.c) of the Directive 93/Зб/СEЕ Council, the procedure by negotiated procedure without prior publication with the company SA Microsoft RV., Which is the only authorized representative of the products in Belgium and Luxembourg.

How Europe did 20 years of backroom deals with Microsoft
1993: EC rubber-stamps Microsoft monopoly

| No Comments
How Europe did 20 years of backroom deals with Microsoft
1993: EC rubber-stamps Microsoft monopoly"> | More
Microsoft Office 1992.pngEurope's ill-fated 1993 migration to Microsoft Office was rubber-stamped by a committee that failed to see how it would get locked into buying Microsoft without a competition for the next 20 years, show documents released to Computer Weekly.

The European Commission used dubious reasoning to justify its decision in 1992 to do a backroom deal with Microsoft. Officials at the time said it was based on a survey of the wordprocessing market. But they took that as justification for buying Microsoft's entire Office suite - with spreadsheet, presentation, email and database software - without opening the business up to any other competitor. And it threw the desktop operating systems DOS and Windows in as well.

"Under the provisions of Article 58 of the Financial Regulation, [the selection procedure] was carried by direct negotiation with the company Microsoft Corporation, owner of the goods concerned (MS-WORD FOR WINDOWS, EXCEL, and operating systems DOS and Windows)," said the EC Information Directorate at the time.

"The proposed contract with the company MICROSOFT will also extend to other office products offered by the company and are regularly requested from the Commission."

The EC was effectively giving Microsoft its desktop monopoly on a plate.

Article 58 of the European Financial Regulations ultimately rested on a the rule that: "Contracts may be made by private treaty...where for technical, practical or legal reasons the supply of goods or services can only be carried out by a particular contractor or supplier."

It meant the EC could do a private deal with Microsoft without opening it up to competitors.

But it had only considered the impact of its decision on the market for WordProcessers. Microsoft was even then already in hot water over its attempts to abuse its dominant market position in desktop operating systems to pin down the entire PC computing environment.

The 1993 procurement was mitigated by an EC decision to standardise its desktops on both Microsoft and WordPerfect Office. The EC chose WordPerfect as the standard format in the absence of an industry, or open standard. The rollout was expected to take three years. By the end of that term, the EC dropped WordPerfect and handed all its business to Microsoft - again without a competition.

The EC said its backroom Microsoft deal was justified in an earlier report that justified buying WordPerfect software on the same terms, again by the Informatics Directorate - now DIGIT: the Directorate-General for Informatics that is still handing the business for the entire European administration's desktops to Microsoft without a competition.

But DIGIT's WordPerfect report said nothing to justify a private arrangement under Article 58.

Anyway, it said, it wasn't justifying any decision to buy Microsoft just yet - that would be done in the later Microsoft report.

The only justifications DIGIT gave for buying WordPerfect were discounts and the empty licensing sweeteners that have become common reasons for approving packaged software procurements.

DIGIT said the WordPerfect purchase was justified by volume price reductions, and reductions for throwing out a competing product (the old market-leading Unix suite by Quadraton), and the promise of cheap rates for updates.

There was nothing to indicate a backroom deal could be justified under Article 58 of the European Financial Regulations - but it did it anyway.


Documents obtained under European Commission Freedom of Information rules. Painstakingly transcribed in original French and processed in Google Translate.

16 APR 1993    EC justifies first bulk purchase of Microsoft desktop software

EC Justification of first Microsoft deal - 16 APR 1993 - Splash.pngProcurement file

Bruxelles 16/04/1993
DI-SLF/B (93) GG/rd 135


Logistical support and training




The IT Department has submitted for the meeting of the CCAM 25/03/1993, a report on the conclusion of a contract with WORDPERFECT company, for the acquisition of software word processing. The report, which has obtained a favorable n...105/93 of CCAМ (see Annex I), explained the decision of the Commission to replace the current word processor, the Q-ONE QUADRATON company, for MS Word for Windows, the company MICROSOFT, and WordPerfect for Windows, the Company WORDPERFECT.

Negotiations with the firm MICROSOFT have meanwhile continued and a draft contract has been established (see Annex II). As in the case of WordPerfect, the proposed contract with the company MICROSOFT will also extend to other office products offered by the company and are regularly requested from the Commission.

The signing of such agreement the Commission will provide many benefits, the same as those mentioned in point III of the report for ACPC WORDPERFECT.

Negotiations with MICROSOFT CORPORATION also covered the strategic direction of the company based on the current and future architecture of the Comission.


The process leading to the selection of word processors MS-Word for Windows and WordPerfect for Windows has been described in detail in the report relating to the contract WORDPERFECT CCAM.


Under the provisions of Article 58 of the Financial Regulation, [the selection procedure] was carried by direct negotiation with the company Microsoft Corporation, owner of the goods concerned (MS-WORD FOR WINDOWS, EXCEL, and operating systems DOS and Windows).

The contract that the Commission has negotiated with the firm MICROSOFT CORPORATION provides that licenses are purchased primarily from authorised retailers and occasionally from MICROSOFT CORPORATION.


5 MAR 1993    EC justifies decision to buy WordPerfect

EC Report justifying Office software purchase - 5 MAR 1993 - Splash.pngBruxelles, le 05/03/1993
DI-SLF/B (93) GG/rd 087

Logistical support and training



The IRMB (Information Resources Management Board), in session from 16 July 1992, decided that the word processor now used by the Commission (Q-ONE QUADRATON) became obsolete, and would be replaced by word processors MS Word for Windows, of Microsoft, and WordPerfect for Windows, by WORDPERFECT. The decision was prepared by a thorough analysis of the market (see Chapter IV).

The migration is planned over three years. We must proceed with acquisitions of products concerned to benefit from the services and benefits involved. The market volume is estimated as financially and technically advantageous for the Commission to benefit from cost reductions granted by the signing of a contract with both companies.

Although negotiations were conducted in parallel with both Microsoft and WordPerfect, the report presented only for signing the contract with the firm WORDPERFECT. A further report be presented to the ССАМ as soon as the draft contract is finalised with Microsoft.

The coverage of the contract attached as we are planning to sign with the company WORDPERFECT (see Annex III) extends to other office products offered by the company that are regularly requested from the Commission, which increases the importance of the reductions granted.

The benefits of the contract include:

- Price reductions secured by the volume of purchases, taking into account the purchases made by other institutions,

- Granting a reduced rate if replacing a competing product (including Q-ONE) licensed WORDPERFECT ("competitive upgrade")

- Possibility of using a single license for training room

- Discounts on the costs of updating automatically received (with maintenance),

- Permission to install software on all workstations from originals or electronic copy, with quarterly reporting,

- Updates easier by removing the obligation to return the disks originate from the supplier,

- Authorisation for staff to use the same license at the office and at home for much of the application software, or on the desktop and the laptop,

- Access to support in a range of services and
inside information (on-line support, test versions, documentation ...).

In addition, contract negotiations have also covered the strategic direction of company WORDPERFECT according current and future architecture of the Commission (cf. Annex IV - Statement of Direction).


The "Committee for Users of Word Processing and Electronic Mail", which is chaired by Secretary-General of the Commission and comprising substantially all of the Commission appointed a Technical Group to study the market "word processing" and provide a report. The findings of this report a summary of which is appended it led to the recommendation of the products of word processors MS Word for Windows and WordPerfect firm MICROSOFT WINDOWS for the firm WORDPERFECT.

After a consultation conducted by the Secretary General of the Commission with officials from other agencies, IRMB endorsed the recommendation of the Technical Gгоuре by its decision of 07.16.92 (Annex I),


Under the provisions of ..Article 58 of the Financial Regulation, was carried by direct negotiation with the firm WORDPERFECT CORPORATION, owner of the product WORDPERFECT,


16 JUL 1992    EC Information Resources Management Board WordProcessing Strategy

EC Information Resources Board recommends WP standard till better option - 16 JUL 1992 - Splash.pngLuxembourg, July 23, 1992
DI - (92) 5257 MOL / пс




July 16, 1992

Summary of Findings

Both products Word and WordPerfect for Windows (multi-size 5.1) are allowed to coexist and Commission. The official exchange format by default between the two systems will be WordPerfect format pending the availability of standardised solutions.

As for the fixtures of migration: the IRMB notes the importance of migration Translation Service and its implications for all services. This migration is scheduled over a period of 3 years until 31/12/1995.

In order to have a global and concerted evolution in the DG, they are encouraged to prepare for the end of the year, migration plans. The IT department is at their disposal if they wish, to help make these plans

The technical topics include:

- Improvement of converters,

- Integration with e-mail service,

will be handled by the IT department is asked to allocate the resources.

In the field of e-mail, IRMB stresses the importance of the timing of the development of products used, both within the Commission and with other institutions,

The IRMB notes the need for concerted action, consistent and transparent within the Commission on the next generation of e-mail.

1. List of Participants
2. Letters of Secretaries General of other institutions


6 JUL 1992    EC Secretary General recommends Microsoft Office procurement

Subscribe to blog feed


-- Advertisement --
-- Advertisement --