infoTECH Feature

June 04, 2010

Canadian Judge Rules against Provincial Government in Purchase of Microsoft Products

The Quebec government violated laws when it purchased software from Microsoft (News - Alert) without first considering offers from other vendors, according to a legal ruling released this week.
The CBC reported that the Quebec government's provincial procurement agency acted illegally in spending 720,000 Canadian dollars, or 686,000 U.S. dollars, starting in 2006, when changing 800 workstations to Microsoft software, including Windows Vista and Office 2007, Judge Denis Jacques ruled in Quebec City on Thursday.
The government did not perform a 'serious and documented search' for alternative products, which it must do with any expenditure over $25,000, the judge said, according to the CBC.
The decision came as a result of a lawsuit filed in 2008 by Savoir Faire Linux, a Montreal-based firm that deals in open-source software, according to the CBC.
The Canadian news agency also reported that Jacques rejected arguments from the government, which contended that Microsoft software was selected because employees were already familiar with it, and that switching to a different platform would have been more expensive. The government also argued that the move to Microsoft Vista was an upgrade, not a purchase, and did not need to be publicly tendered, the CBC reported.
The judge awarded Savoir Faire Linux the costs of its legal action.
Cyrille Beraud, president of Savoir-Faire Linux, told the AFP news agency it was a 'historic judgment' because it 'breaks multinationals' stranglehold on information systems.'
The ruling would have 'a global impact,' he said, as governments worldwide are said to be under pressure to reduce their software budgets and reliance on proprietary software such as Microsoft products, AFP reported.
The ruling was also being watched by bloggers concerned about these issues.
"Although it's specific to Canadian/Quebec law and to these particular circumstances, it probably opens the door to similar action elsewhere," said a posting in the Techrights blog. The blog also reported that Europe had voiced similar complaints but never took formal action, except in Switzerland.
Microsoft has a large presence in Canada, with the company, for example, reporting recently that is Canada's Number One portal home page in the country. In just six months, after ending its collaboration with Bell Sympatico, the MSN Canada Home Page reached 12,813,000 unique visitors and tops the list when it comes to total time spent on a portal.

Ed Silverstein is a contributing editor for TMCnet's InfoTech Spotlight. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard

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