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Re: Revenue Service Nearing Linux Migration

On Thursday 23 February 2006 15:20 Mark Kent wrote:

> begin  oe_protect.scr
> Roy Schestowitz <newsgroups@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> espoused:
>> http://www.tectonic.co.za/view.php?id=882
>>   "The South African Revenue Service (SARS) issued a tender (RFT 37/2005)
>>   for a proof of concept Linux desktop solution for the tax-collecting
>>   government department on 17 February. While SARS admits that the
>>   challenge of moving to Linux on the desktop is great, a successful
>>   proof of concept could see 14 000 desktops running Microsoft Windows
>>   XP SP2 migrated to Linux."
>> Linux among governmental bodies is always exceptionally encouraging news.
> Interesting observation.  Civil servants tend to be amongst the most
> conservative in terms of technical change, so as you say, to see so many
> governments looking at leaving vendor lock-in behind them is very
> encouraging.  Linux is an excellent way of avoiding the vendor lock-in
> of Microsoft and other solutions.

Absolutely, Mark.

However, I have come to believe that we here (all of us, trolls as well)
tend to look at the move to Linux (read for Linux "Linux+FOSS+Open
Standards" if you will) from completely the wrong end.

Look through the arguments in cola for a few months, and it's a repetition

- H/W issues
- Applications that run under Windows, not Linux
- "Why should I move to Linux" and "Very few use Linux" and "You need to be
a geek to use it".

In other words, arguments on the personal and in-the-home front.
e.g. advocates cheer when Munich says it will move its 14,000 desktops over,
detractors sneer that it is taking so long, and that Munich will lose money
(compared with having simply stayed with MS for one more cycle), and what's
14,000 anyway?

I'm coming to the conclusion that this is all skirmishing and tactics-talk,
and that there are folks out there actually using a strategy and intent on
winning a war - and that we don't hear much about that side of it!

We saw some of it (the proverbial tip of the iceberg) with MA, and its very
public statements on Open Formats.  MA (reading around this subject over
the months) is very far from alone!  In fact, from what I read, their
thought on standards, lock-in etc. are pretty typical of those of most (if
not all) government bodies, certainly in Europe.
(- and look at the MS response to MA - was somebody at MS scared s*****ss,
or was somebody at MS scared s*****ss?!)

Munich we/they tend to see as a local government doing a migration.  If that
were so, MS would (imo) have little to fear.  There will be many problems,
the cost will be high, it will take a long time.  The observant will notice
however that Munich, faced with this, has not given up.  Why so?  On the
face of it, they are doing something very uneconomical.  On the bare
economics, they probably knew before they even made the announcement that
this would be a "loss leader".
All I can think of is more questions.  Tell me, Mark:-
- how many government organisations are there in Germany?
- suppose that you include in that police, tax, national government,
     schools, colleges, universities, health.....
- a big number?
- suppose that Munich (and others) are seen as mere pilot schemes?
- when Munich is done-and-dusted, and folks can see the problems,
    and see how Munich did/should-have got round them,
    what then for the others?  Easier or harder?  Cost, less or more?:-)
Suppose - just suppose - that for once our leaders have seen the writing on
the wall, noted the way that things are going, have decided to do something
about it, and are working to a plan, doing trials, solving problems -
marking a path through the minefield, in fact?

Do you see what I'm driving at?
Individuals, even companies, might well be faced with difficulties in making
the transition - but look at the incentives for governments (via their
government bodies), particularly outside the U.S.:-

- at the moment, they are seeing their stuff locked into proprietary
formats, with all that that implies.

- also, and as a consequence, they become locked into vendors of
applications and OSs

- they see all this as being controlled by companies in a foreign country.

- they themselves have little input into S/W, systems, the route of
development, etc.  (e.g. "You want Word in WELSH???"!)

- they must surely ask themselves the question, "What happens if we fall out
with the Yanks?"

- they are aware that of every 1,000 dollars of balance of trade deficit
flowing out by buying MS (in particular) about 800 dollars is MS profit,
and of the remaining 200 dollars the majority is promotion, advertising and
distribution!  They must surely wonder what happens if they say "no" and
instead of handing over 1,000 dollars, simply invest 100 dollars with their
own software people to develop what THEY want!

- they must be aware that it is they (and perhaps they alone) who can break
the cycle.  If all civil servants and governmet workers use something else,
and take that something else home to use (for free!), and that something
else is used in schools (for free), and colleges and universities, then
also the companies will start to move to the something else.

You see how I'm thinking?
We tend to argue here that users will move on droves to Linux and FOSS, and
that eventually it will percolate up.
I'm seeing every indication that there is a strategy afoot to implement it
at the top, and let it percolate DOWN!

I'll grant that the U.K. is possibly midway between the U.S. and
Germany/France in this, and therefore you and I are perhaps not seeing it
as we would if we lived on the larger land-mass off the East coast, but I
don't think that any of this is wishful thinking on my part.
On the contrary, it's a way in which Paris, Munich, Vienna, and the court
cases against MS actually make sense!

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