EU and Microsoft negotiating extension of Windows agreement

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The European Commission and Microsoft are currently negotiating an extension to the EU’s current four-year, $70.7 million agreement to buy Windows licenses through a Microsoft reseller.

As reported by The New York Times, the current agreement expires on May 31. The EU hopes to finalize better terms by using a “negotiated procedure” that would allow them to extend the agreement for thee years without any public bidding for the contract. Antony Gravili, a spokesman for the commission, summed it up as such: “By negotiating a big order we are hoping to drive down prices.”

The Free Software Foundation Europe has attacked the Commission’s decision to extend the agreement. Karsten Gerloff, president of the FSF Europe, argues that the commission is currently advocating member nations to consider open-source software yet the commission itself continues to utilize Microsoft’s proprietary software: “The public message is that we want you to innovate and improve your IT systems. The subtext is that we are not going to do this ourselves.”

Despite this, the commission stands by its decision and claims that the policy recommendation of adopting open-source software should only be used when appropriate. Antony Gravili also emphasized the commission’s current use of open-source software in over 350 web servers used in the day-to-day operations in Brussels.

Perhaps the biggest concern is the closed nature of the agreement. Graham Taylor, CEO of Openforum Europe, argues that a lack of a formal bidding process only muddies the situation: “This decision would appear to contradict the IT policy goals laid down in the commission’s digital agenda and it also would appear to run counter to the commission’s efforts to make procurement processes in Europe more transparent and fairer.”

The European Commission’s decision to extend the agreement might also involve future upgrades to their current systems from the aging Windows XP to Windows 7 although that decision for the moment is currently pending.