Israel Drops Office 2003 Software, Pursues Open Source Alternatives
In a dramatic move this week, Israel's Finance Ministry announced that the country will no longer purchase Microsoft software and will instead pursue open source alternatives which it says will cost less and encourage more widespread computer use. Israel and Microsoft were apparently locked in a months long negotiation over licensing for Microsoft Office 2003. When Microsoft refused to license individual Office applications, Israeli representatives walked away from the talks. A representative noted that many government workers need to use only certain applications and the country shouldn't be forced to purchase a full Office 2003 license for each worker.
The move with Microsoft was a purely economic decision a Finance Ministry spokesperson said The Israeli government will not be purchasing new products from Microsoft but will implement its contract to secure existing systems On a policy level the government is committed to expanding computer use We want open source technology to spread so more people will be able to afford computers
Because of the relatively immature nature of open source desktop applications at this time, Israel will continue using its existing Microsoft software installations but won't upgrade them. But the country is fostering the development of open source replacements and recently helped Sun Microsystems and IBM develop a Hebrew version of OpenOffice.org an open source office productivity suite.
Israel isn't alone in abandoning Microsoft software, although different governments cite unique reasons for the decision. Certain local government agencies in China, France, and Germany and the city government of Munich, Germany are in the process of moving from Microsoft desktop software to open source alternatives. However, how successful these migrations will be is uncertain. Many national governments including those of Brazil, China, Japan, Great Britain, South Korea, and Russia are also reviewing open source solutions. In the United States the state of Massachusetts recently reiterated its pledge to adopt open standards and open source computer technology going forward. According to market researchers at IDC governments are a huge market accounting for about 10 percent of global information spending each year.
Microsoft won't comment specifically on Israel's decision but the company did issue a general statement yesterday. Microsoft is always willing to discuss how we can help bring the value of Microsoft products and services to the benefit of consumers and businesses alike the statement reads. We will continue to work closely with the government to explore how we can best meet their business needs.