EU Commission: Open Bids Favor Proprietary Software

Oct 22, 2008

In a recent report of the European Union's IDABC agency, numerous software tenders in Europe run against regulations in that they favor proprietary software. If it were up to the IDABC, the tendering organizations would be liable for these practices.

The Interoperable Delivery to Administrations, Businesses and Citizens (IDABC) agency of the EU is responsible for regulating delivery of interoperable software to its European constituents. In contract with the IDABC, the UNU-Merit center (a joint project of the United Nations University and Maastricht University in the Netherlands) issued a guidelines document on the public procurement of open source software. In preparing the document, researchers found that there was a definite bias toward proprietary software among public tenders. The authors recognized that many software procurements subtly or overtly favored certain brands and even specific applications. They cited that compatibility with previously acquired software was the motivating selection criteria for 33% of the one thousand IT organizations they studied. Rishab Ghosh, one of the authors of the guidelines, described the consequences of this behavior: "This implicit vendor lock-in means that a tender, meant to last for only five years, leads to a contractual relation lasting ten, fifteen years or more."

The bias is even more obvious when organizations ask for multiple licenses or copies of a software package. Ghosh and his colleagues provided some examples: of the 3,615 software tenders studied between January and August 2008, 36% specifically requested Microsoft products, 20% requested Oracle, 12% mentioned IBM, 11% wanted SAP and 10% asked for Adobe applications. Ghosh explains, "It is like requesting the latest Volkswagens and then expecting that everyone can sell these. We all know only Volkswagen dealers can do so." Karel de Vriendt, head of the Open Source Observatory and Repository unit at the IDABC (OSOR), offers his take: "These tenders should be protested against, and if necessary the tendering organizations could be taken to court."

The software tender guidelines currently serve informational purposes only. The authors wanted to show how to end discrimination against Open Source in public tenders, and listed in detail the specific characteristics of Open Source software. According to the authors, the fact that this software can be used and distributed without restrictions in an open environment, with a right to adapt and share it with others, should be enough reason to be strongly considered for public tenders. As Ghosh says, "Many people assume there is a level playing field and that measures to promote Open Source are no longer needed. In fact, there is widespread bias in favor of proprietary applications."

The first draft of the document with the title "Osor Guidelines: Public Procurement and Open Source Software" appeared Monday at the Open Source World Conference in Malaga. The final draft should be publicized during this week on the OSOR webpage.

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  • Open bids favor only proprietary software from large vendors

    The article is bang on in the inference that so called open bids actually favor proprietary vendors. In addition I would add that it favors only the established large vendors and not any proprietary vendor.
  • Linux <A href="ttp://">Linux</A>
  • study open for discussion

    Dear all,

    the draft version of the study is now available on at:

    We have also opened a forum linked to the study, where we welcome your comments. It will be open until 5th November, and your comments will be taken into account during the finalization of the study.

    Szabolcs Szekacs

  • You can say that again

    My partner and I have been trying to set up a business that sells specifically Linux based desktop computer systems, it is impossible to get a machine from the wholesalers, there is only one company that actually imports all brands, that does not have Windows pre installed.

    And if anyone knows of a channel, I'f like to hear about it.
  • Tendering for software and other things

    This is the problem with large (often state supported) multinationals. They can bribe the officials in your country and you can do nothing about it. In time they wipe out all your local businesses and employment while charging much more for defective products. Here in Australia, it is not just a problem with software but almost every importable good.

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