Open Source Gains Ground, Support in the EU

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In a report on open source software released recently on behalf of the European Union, the European Commission lends considerable support to open source programs, at the expense ofMicrosoft. The long-standing animosity between Microsoft and the European Community over the software giant's proprietary software has been the subject of numerous news stories over the past decade. Repeatedly, a number of rulings against the Redmond, WA behemoth have reinforced the impression of disdain for Microsoft’s business practices from a European perspective. Fines in the hundreds of millions of Euros in favor of the European Union have been announced, though a final cash settlement has yet to be arrived at.The European Commission's report (PDF) from a couple of weeks ago further underscored its support for the continually emerging open source philosophy. Though hardly ready to eat Microsoft’s lunch in Europe, open source has undoubtedly made a considerable impact. The EC has lent increasingly greater rationale to organizations contemplating jumping ship from the Microsoft in favor of non-proprietary products such as Linux. Pioneered by its own European Linus Torvalds while studying at University of Helsinki some 15 years ago, Linux became one of the earliest open standards-based products to become mainstream.In a long report prepared on the subject and released last week, the EC stated flatly that firms stand to realize savings by switching from proprietary ware such as Microsoft Office to their open source counterparts. Microsoft had claimed over the years that the amount of potential savings is overstated -- despite its marketing of open-source capable products of its own. However reluctantly, over the past decade it has given in by offering its ownopen-standards editions for trendsetters such as popular Java, and more recently Linux. In the document released in its entirety finally the week before last, the EC said that in "almost all cases" cost savings could be realized by switching from proprietary to open source software in business deployments. Studies closely examined such projects in six EU nations. Written by scholars at United Nations University in Maastricht, Netherlands, the report concluded that almost without exception, going the open standards route leads to substantial advantages in terms of total cost of ownership in the long-run.The paper made the point that initial costs of deployment may be higher for firms moving towards open standards due to the need for training costs at the outset. Interestingly, it also suggested that some workers could feel actually “undervalued” if forced to work with free software.