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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Microsoft to Mandriva: We believe in free choice of technologies

Software giant, Microsoft Corporation may have over ran the open source entity, Mandriva Linux on the Operating Systems to be deployed afterwards on 17,000 Classmate Personal Computers (PCs) recently acquired by the Federal Government, saying it believes in free choice of technologies including software solutions.

Just as Microsoft Nigeria denied any act of anti-competition on the alleged jettisoning of Mandriva Linux version of Operating System for its own package on the aftermath of 17,000 Classmate Personal Computers (CMPCs) supplied to the government by Intel Corporation for educational use countrywide.

Champion Infotel recalls that in May this year, Mandriva had announced its selection by government to run on Intel-powered 17,000 classmate PCs for educational use in a nationwide pilot, via Technology Support Centre Ltd, with the aim to improve the quality of technology delivered to students, and to help teachers and parents.

This claim was elucidated through an open letter purportedly written to the chief executive officer of Microsoft Corporation, Mr. Steve Ballmer by his counterpart at Mandriva, Mr. Fran├žois Bancilhon.

The letter dated October 31, 2007 and posted online at 10:51pm, Mr. Bancilhon stated that his firm, recently closed a deal with the Federal Government (FG) with the aim of availing affordable hardware and software solution for schools, based on the fact that it was open and customisable.

“Then, your people (Microsoft) get in the game and the deal got more competitive. I would not say it got dirty, but someone could have said that. Your team fought and fought against the deal, but still the customer was happy with the CMPC and Mandriva,” Bancilhon said, stressing that actually the order was taken, the software qualified and machines shipped.

“… We did our job and, the machines are being delivered right now,” he said, alleging that he heard it in good authority that although the first batch;17,000 PCs could be assumed as settled, but would soon be replaced with Microsoft Operating System (OS).

“We shall pay for the Mandriva Software as agreed, but we shall replace it by Windows afterward,” Bancilhon quoted a government official saying.

“Wow! I’m impressed, Steve! What have you done to these guys to make them change their mind like this? It’s quite clear to me, and it will be to everyone. How do you call what you just did Steve? There is various names for it, I’m sure you know them,” he further alleged corruption, including that the proposed Microsoft Window XP slated for that project will not be available marketwise by April 2009.

Commenting on the development, Intel Nigeria’s business development manager, Mr. David Ibhawoh, said that his firm has nothing to do with Mandriva and that Champion Infotel should contact Microsoft.

Reacting to what some stakeholders described as ‘Microsoft spreads more misery in Africa’ with particular reference to the Nigerian 17,000 classmate deal, Country Manager, Microsoft Nigeria, Mr. Chinenye Mba-Uzoukwu, said that Microsoft strongly believes that individuals, governments and other organisations should be free to choose the software and other technologies that meet their needs most appropriately.

“We believe Microsoft offers the best overall option of value, integration, interoperability and support, without complexity or added dependency on services,” he declared.

Mr. Mba-Uzoukwu also said that Microsoft welcomes any government’s evaluation of competing products, as they offer his firm the opportunity to prove the value and integrated functionality offered by its solutions.

“Microsoft is committed to helping all governments develop strong, sustainable IT infrastructures that deliver ease of use, value through innovative technology, a clear roadmap for future development, and access to source code to improve security and implementation.

“On the whole, we’re seeing strong worldwide market demand for Windows on low-cost devices to help governments in the areas of education, local innovation, jobs and opportunities,” he said.

The country manager equally said that Microsoft has also found that government agencies are looking at the complete picture; in other words, they are realising that bringing the benefits of technology to more people requires software, hardware, training, well-designed curricula, and stimulating sustainable local business ecosystems … not just the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) itself.

Hence, Microsoft has a strong relationship with the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) and will continue to partner with government and the private sector to help meet their needs.

Therefore, he pointed out that Microsoft operates its business in accordance with both the laws of the countries in which it operates and with international law.

He explained that Microsoft Windows XP, as an operating system, does not expire, but it’s true that the system builder licenses will no longer be available from 2009.

“It’s Microsoft policy for that license to end four years after the general availability of the product into the market. As Microsoft continues to drive innovation in its products, the versions are managed by publicly available roadmaps under this policy,” he said.

However, the open letter to Steve has since attracted over 500 comments globally, overtly alleging Nigerian government may have been ‘greased’ by Microsoft and urged the government and Nigerian Information Technology (IT) experts to do the right thing by advising the government correctly.

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