Is Switzerland Neutral on Open Source?

From the ‘not so neutral‘ files:

Switzerland is a country well known for its historical position of political neutrality. That position of neutrality however may not necessarily extend to the debate over proprietary versus open source software.

18 open source vendors including Red Hat and OpenXchange are challenging a contract awarded by the Swiss Federal Bureau for Building and Logistics (BBL) to Microsoft. The contract is worth 42 million Swiss Francs (approximately – $39 million US) and includes applications, maintenance and support.

The issue according to the open source vendors is that the Swiss contract was a no-bid contract.

“The Swiss agency justified this no-bid procedure on the ground that there was no sufficient alternative to the Microsoft products,” Red Hat stated.

Red Hat and Microsoft were not immediately available for comment (I emailed and called them, but neither got back to me on my questions by posting time).

Red Hat stated in blog post that other Swiss agencies are using Red Hat and other open source solutions.

The idea that alternatives do exist is also something that Microsoft Exchange competitor, Open-Xchange is keen to oppose.

“What we wanted to protest was the Swiss government’s assertion that there was no alternative to whom they could bid out the contract,” Frank Hoberg, Open-Xchange’s founder and executive vice president of sales and marketing told “The fact is, there are very few technologies that do not have competition and certainly there are many alternatives to Microsoft – alternatives that help companies avoid lock-in and save money.

In this economy, doesn’t it make even more sense for governments to shop around and explore lower cost alternatives? “

I am hoping to hear back from Microsoft at some point today/tomorrow and it will be interesting to get their official take on this situation.

There are a lot of different reasons why a no-bid contract may make sense in some cases, a lack of competitive alternatives, being one of many reasons. That said open source is a viable alternative and governments do need to consider all their options to ensure they are delivering value to their users and taxpayers.

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