Strike Against Free Software: Microsoft Enters Catalonian Schools

Feb 20, 2009

Steve Ballmer's deal with the Catalonian government is seen as a leverage against their existing Open Source strategy.

It was a pretty personal deal between Steve Ballmer and president of the Generalitat de Catalunya José Montilla. According to an announcement out of Barcelona, Microsoft is to provide the Catalonian schools with touchscreen PCs and projects, making it easier for their students and teachers to cozy up to their proprietary software. The first transaction was to present the city of Lleida a new computer center, although no further details were given.

Not particularly proxy to this decision were the Open Source developers specifically tasked by the government to rid the schools of proprietary software licenses. As Francesc Busquets, software developer at the Generalitat de Catalunya, can attest, "We weren't consulted and or involved in the decision. As far as we know, there hasn't been a change in strategy from bringing GNU/Linux to Catalonia's schools."

Minister of education Ernest Maragall had announced in April 2008 that hundreds of schools would be switched to GNU/Linux. The main reason, he said at the time, was the illegal use of proprietary software.

Microsoft's offer involves the creation of virtual communities under its Live@edu suite of applications and that will be provided personalized e-mail accounts. Meanwhile Microsoft claims that the resulting content isn't coupled with any particular platform. But the bundling with Microsoft's services organized around their updates, together with their proven bad Linux touchscreen support, pretty much ensures Windows as the platform of choice.

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  • worldwide issue really

    Even in the states, the issue is a big one to deal with. Florida public school networks and their "support" are based on a long commitment to Microsoft. While the school level support tech and network staff would prefer a transition to Linux, administration level staff see their job security at risk and won't allow talk of Linux. Their training has been in the Microsoft environment and they will continue to train and push for it. Anything else would mean retooling and training on their own part as well as admitting to the past expenses of administering a system that is too fat with costs.
    Seeing the advantages of open source, many specialists have kept up with the news and have learned how to implement and support it when the time comes. It is a matter of waiting for tech administration to retire or move on.
    To read this news of a place where Microsoft is getting its foot back in the door is not a good sign to the rest of us. Especially when the economy is in a position to push many to other options.
  • Not surprising at all

    Pretty disappointing but not surprising at all. Right now I am using a computer in a classroom from a public school which came with a Windows Vista Business OEM license. It never ran because the computers were formatted to install a Fedora 9. And that happened to 30 computers this year and 30 more the past year.

    That's 60 useless (and properly paid) Windows licenses!
  • a different view ..

    or, we could look at the earlier announcement as a way to get MS discount ...
  • Annoying...

    What annoys me is this double-way of thinking and acting. I don't understand for what reason they promote the creation of a GNU/Linux distribution which is supposed to be implemented in the schools and then they sign this stupid deal with microsoft. The result: spending money everywhere without no real or good effect on the citizenship.
  • Unsustainable strategy

    The real cost of this transaction will appear at renewal time.
  • Correction

    None of the following links work properly:

    * "Open Source developers"
    * "announced in April 2008 "

    They take you to the general press notes section of the Generalitat de Catalunya instead to the article itself.
  • As a Catalan Citizen, I'm very very disappointed...

    As a Catalan Citizen, I'm very very disappointed...
  • Additionally some politics on going in this decision.

    Newspapers in Catalonio that usually associate a forum of opinions to the news did not do it in that particular case -with a honourable exception.
    I wonder whether somebody got instructed not to allow e-polemics related to that decision.

    The news said it was a great progress towards "catalanisation" of the educational software, when open source is for a long time well provided with suitable translations to the local language !

    In any case I disliked not to be able to give my own opnion on the open arena after such a commercial agreement. It reminds me this intervention to stop the spread of the open source intitiatives in Nigeria or another African country in the recent past (sorry I do not remember more details).
  • correction

    Thanks, of course. It's been corrected.
  • correction

    I believe you meant to say "touchscreen" at the end, instead of "touchpad".
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