Questions over open standards lobbyists

The power of large software corporations is demonstrated by the immense trouble an elected government has when it attempts to act in a way that doesn’t put their interests before the public good.

That’s been the UK experience this last year since the Cabinet Office introduced its open standards policy.

The way the rights holders were acting, anyone would think the government was trying to outlaw proprietary standards. Microsoft and Oracle threatened trade wars with China. The British Standards Institution and ISO threatened the UK with expulsion from their powerful club.

Never mind that the government was elected on a promise that it would promote open standards. When Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude pulled his open standards policy, his lieutenants said the matter was going to public consultation so they could avoid being sued by those “vested interests” who were opposed to it. Those vested interests were Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, and the Business Software Alliance. What do they care about Britain’s public good?

There might be a case for outlawing proprietary standards, but that is not what the government is trying to do. It is merely trying to implement a procurement policy.

This means it’s trying to make a purchasing decision. You know, like Mercedes does when choosing a gear stick or an ash tray. It whips its supply chain into fawning submission. The customer is King.

UK.gov might similarly choose whether to buy Microsoft Windows or… Microsoft Windows or… okay, sometimes the market offers little choice. But it might choose between Oracle and, say… okay, not the best example.

But least our public servants can still choose the colour of their Microsoft desktops. Now remind me again, why is the government trying to purchase technology that uses open standards?

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