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GNU is Not Unix Software

Brazilian Government Continues Push For Free Software 295

Posted by timothy
from the and-a-one-and-a-two-and-a dept.
rmello writes "The 'Legislative Free Software Week' in Brazil ended last week, drawing 2,000 people, including 3 ministers and presidents of congress and senate. Computerworld reports (in Portuguese, translation by submitter), among other things, that 1) House of Representatives will NOT renew MS-Office licenses, but is looking at free software alternatives, 2) The free software parliamentary front was announced in congress, 3) The e-mail system of the house of representatives is being replaced by a free software one, 4) The federal government is looking at concrete measures to stimulate free software as means of saving money and stimulating the national software industry. Looks like free software is here to stay in Brazil. Kudos to the many Brazilian free software groups working to make such victories a reality."
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Brazilian Government Continues Push For Free Software

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  • by AftanGustur (7715) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @02:16AM (#6802535) Homepage


    You always have interest groups pushing for one solution or another. In the case of free software, it's tens of thousands of people who will have jobs they wouldn't have otherwise.

    Switching systems like this requires more people (more jobs) for training and support. And even though the cost for the governament doesn't dramatically shrink, the money, not only stays in Brazil, but also creates thousands of new jobs.

    It's about time the politicians of the world understand that important part of using free software!

  • by rmull (26174) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @02:17AM (#6802539) Homepage
    > The most important is changing the deviant
    > desires of rob malda for young boys, not only
    > approving pro-free software laws

    C'mon, can't you even READ it before moderating?

    *sigh*
  • Start of a change (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross@ ... .ca minus distro> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @02:21AM (#6802562)
    This is the start of a changing of how third world countries will act.

    Seriously, lets see "PAY LICENSES" or "FEED PEOPLE"

    Ok the argument is not always about feeding the people. Paying license fees is not what third world countries want to do. I mention this as a start because it will shift to other things other than software, eg Drugs Patents, Copyrights, etc. The West better be paying attention, because people like the RIAA say, "Why do you need bread when you can eat cake!"
  • by segment (695309) <sil.politrix@org> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @02:21AM (#6802563) Homepage Journal
    1) House of Representatives will NOT renew MS-Office licenses, but is looking at free software alternatives, 2) The free software parliamentary front was announced in congress,

    So German government stated they were making the switch in 2001, China is making a switch, who's next. Could spell big trouble for MS' revenue considering China, and Brazil are just HUGE. This could be a break for Sun Microsystems though if they would do something with Solaris under x86 ala Linux or BSD. (freely downloadable I meant to say).

    3) The e-mail system of the house of representatives is being replaced by a free software one,

    Damnit, with the mention of another hole found in Sendmail I hope it wasn't that.

    4) The federal government is looking at concrete measures to stimulate free software as means of saving money and stimulating the national software industry.

    rants page): Let's say that OS #1 costs a small company $499.99 for about 10 licenses, we'll call this company Foobar Incorporated. Foobar incorporated is now getting pounded with about 20 virii per year, and it takes their administrators about 20 minutes per machine to update the operating system every time something new causes chaos on the network.

    Either way you decide to do the math, it is going to be costly. Place 2 administrators in Foobar Inc., and have them patch up the system at a total cost of 100 minutes per person for the update. 20 minutes per machine multiplied by 10 machines divided by two administrators, we'll now give these administrators $10.00 per hour and the cost for this one instance is $33.33 for this one instance. $666.66 per year, for this one company. So how many small companies are there? Should we be generous and say 10 million? $6,666,660,000.00 in lost revenue.

    These figures are only on viruses, not program crashes, not system downtime, strictly salary. Sure I know some geek wizard is going to scrutinize this be my guest... There are pros and cons to free software being you won't necessarily receive great tech support for it as opposed to some (note I said some*) companies tech support.

    Now before someone unloads the holy grail of follow ups, I said *some* tech support. We all know that certain unnamed companies blow when it comes to tech support, but remember not everyone is going to browse through sites like kernel.org, nor jump on IRC for support. Many endusers still prefer pretty to geek.

    </rant>

  • Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cliffy2000 (185461) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @02:27AM (#6802578) Journal
    Brazilian Government Continues Push For Free Software
    So... all M$ would have to do would be to distribute free copies of their software to the Brazilian government in order to solve this, correct?
    If I were Ballmer and Co., I would take this as opportunity to nip this in the bud. But I'm not evil. [sarcasm] And I hope that M$ doesn't read this and steal my idea... because you just know that they've never done this before. [/sarcasm]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @02:30AM (#6802587)
    How many times have the Linuati proudly huffed that tech support personel was reduced by at least a factor of 10 when switching to a Linux solution? So now 90% of the current Brazilian tech support people won't be needed. As well as 100% of the programmers. Ergo: YOU'RE FIRED, PEPE.

    Corrupt officials will welcome the freed up money now available for embezzleing.
  • by segment (695309) <sil.politrix@org> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @02:46AM (#6802631) Homepage Journal
    Someone explain niave-me

    Here is how I think it may stimulate the economy a bit. Brazil's population was 155.82 million in 1995 according to their Embassy's stats [brazil.org.uk], so for argument's sake let's say it still is 155 million. Let's take one percent and say that they buy software. This would be 1,550,000 buying say MS at a very low price of 50.00 (US). That would equal $77,500,000.00

    Now what if instead of spending that money on MS bs, they took that money and opened up research labs to develop products of their own. Wouldn't you say somewhere down the line, they would be better off if they could make revenue by saving on software as opposed to throwing it out the window. So how does it stimulate the economy? Well money could be shifted elsewhere that's how, it doesn't necessarily have to be using some notion that free software itself is going to generate revenue now. It sure does however make sense to make the switch. Maybe your sense of perception isn't on a business level who knows.

  • by tugrul (750) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @02:47AM (#6802633)
    "Microsoft gives Brazil upgrades to latest releases for pennies on the dollar."

    Will Brazil truly pull a Munich [slashdot.org], or are they just playing the game Thailand thinks it won [osnews.com] with Microsoft.
  • Why so negative? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Steeltoe (98226) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @02:52AM (#6802654) Homepage
    They can use the money they planned on licensing from Microsoft to support their own IT-staff, including programmers. They can afford to build and extend on Free Software where necessary. It's all about mindshare, thousands of people surrounding the government will also install Free Software, and contribute when they get educated about FSF/Open Source and have an itch to scratch. This means fewer people locked into the abusive monopoly behemoth that is Microsoft.

    You should rather ask yourself: Why am I so negative?
  • by spress (584556) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @02:55AM (#6802663)
    Maybe Microsoft should point out what happened to Guatemala after they annoyed the United Fruit Company in 1954.
  • by kramer2718 (598033) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @03:06AM (#6802699) Homepage
    You're quite right. I think that Brazil is actually counting on those private developers. I think that their plan is to contract out the software projects that they need done while using Linux, and other free software as a basis for those projects.

    Farming out developement of other software has got to be cheaper than paying M$ obscene liscensing fees. Furthermore, when you hire contractors, you can get a solution which fits better than an out of the package software-suite. At the beginning, they may have to send some of that work overseas, but they will probably find local talent pretty quickly.

  • Re:Why so happy? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @03:11AM (#6802717)
    It's simple. If less people are using MS Office, then MS Office file-format has less power.

    Also Brazilian goverment will surely make some changes to open-source software to better suit their needs and they will naturally release these changes to the public.
  • by Simon X. (700576) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @03:11AM (#6802721)
    Not relying on dollar-paid foreign products greatly is of utmost importance to the economy and financial position of Brazil.

    Using and promoting free software stimulates local know-how and will generate many jobs.

    This is just one more sign that by electing their president Lula, the Brazilian people got the government they deserve (in a positive sense).

    Let's see on september 1 (the vote on the Software Patents Directive) if we Europeans can we be equally happy with our Parliament...

  • Re:Why so happy? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Malcontent (40834) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @03:13AM (#6802726)
    "' I mean what advantages does this development give to Linux users?"

    Anything that adds to the userbase helps linux. More users mean more and better drivers and less IE only web site. Also some small percentage of those users will actually contribute back. If they spawn another Miguel or two the world would be a better place.
  • by davejenkins (99111) <slashdot@davejenkins. c o m> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @03:24AM (#6802767) Homepage
    This could be a break for Sun Microsystems though if they would do something with Solaris under x86 ala Linux or BSD. (freely downloadable I meant to say).

    Why would Sun want to make Solaris freely available? Why would Brasil want to buy more proprietary hardware from the US? You`ve missed the whole point of what Brasil is trying to do here: native support, native distro, native jobs and IT industry.

    Even open source leaders like Red Hat, who do make source code available, stand to benefit little immediately: the native-blood syndrome is too strong.

    I would imagine that Brasil is more than willing to go `low-tech` on some of their infrastructure as long as it is free or homegrown: they don`t need Lotus notes, email will do; they don`t need Oracle 9i, PostGreSQL will do, etc.
  • by Simon X. (700576) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @03:24AM (#6802768)
    Is it much different in the USA?

    Except that the government is supporting free software.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @03:24AM (#6802769)
    Suppose that a small office spends $50 on Linux rather than $500 on Microsoft. The other $450 does not disappear! The bueiness will spend $450 on other business expenses, or it will make the owners $450 richer -- which is better than making Bill Gates $450 richer.

    At the end of the day, lower prices for software may or may not help the software industry. But they definitely help every other industry that purchases software.
  • by ultrabot (200914) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @03:31AM (#6802790)
    This could be a break for Sun Microsystems though if they would do something with Solaris under x86 ala Linux or BSD. (freely downloadable I meant to say).

    It doesn't matter whether it's freely downloadable, if it's not free as in OSS. Using Solaris would not be a strategic move, it would be a temporary measure in the migration path to Linux.

    Building systems on Solaris is better than building them on Windows (because of the open standards), but using Solaris on a productivity desktop is just pure idiocy.

    There are pros and cons to free software being you won't necessarily receive great tech support for it as opposed to some (note I said some*) companies tech support.

    If you pay $1500 for Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS, you sure as hell expect great tech support. And it's still free (libre) software, because you would not be "sharecropping"... BTW, I would expect the RHEL/SLES support to be far superior to the support of proprietary OSen, as it is *the* thing you are asked to pay for, instead of the special privilege of using the OS, or past R&D costs of a company.
  • by caranha (680518) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @03:34AM (#6802797)
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but how is this going to stimulate the industry if there is no money to be made for the software "companies"? Surely this will damage the software industry?

    Unless by "software industry" you mean only "on the shelf" software companies (which, in Brazil, are mostly companies from other countries), no way, but even if you do...

    Brazil has already some companies on the open source paradigm of software industry (support, local solutions, etc). A big example is Conectiva, which even ships its own distro.

    Also, checking some brazillian tech news you'll find lots of small consulting companies that work off putting computers on small businesses where things are still on the "age of paper". For these companies, they'll be able to provide more hand-tailored solutions for their clients at a lesser cost.

    Claus
  • by jgardn (539054) <jgardn@alumni.washington.edu> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @03:35AM (#6802806) Homepage Journal
    You are thinking too narrow -- you only see the wealth created by the sale of the license to use the software, not the wealth created from the users of the software.

    I know several companies in the Seattle area (still suffering high unemployment and economic recession) that are successful *because* they use free software. They are able to adopt a piece of software, extend it to incorporate the features they need in their particular situation, and then add enough value to their company that they are turning healthy profits while all their competitors are flailing.

    Let's take one piece of software -- the Apache web server. Even though acquiring the software requires little or no capital expenditure, deploying the software is pretty easy, and extending the software is only slightly more difficult, it is the foundation for several companies. Without that particular piece of software, they could not have built their business. Just having the software available to people creates wealth and value.

    When Brazil unleashes a couple of million dollars from its IT spending and turns it into the pockets of Brazilian developers, testers, and documentators, it is going to begin the process of adding value to Free Software in Brazil. The companies and businesses will be able to utilize this software in their organizations, and add a bit of their own as well. The increased value of having the whole country united behind free software will bring such wealth that the previous revenue that licensing would've created would be seen as a drop in the bucket.

    You have to view software from a holistic economic approach.
  • by ender81b (520454) <billd AT inebraska DOT com> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @03:36AM (#6802808) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, that is definately one thing that people in the states never think about when they mindlessly bash MS and people like the MPAA and RIAA.

    Whether or not you realize it the software industry, and music and movie industry, contribute huge amounts of money to the US economy - i'm too lazy to look up the links - but without those industrys the US' trade deficit would be much higher than it already is, and it's already too high.

    The Brazilian government, and all those who switch to linux and other free alternatives, are that many less customers that MS gets and that less tax we americans get. Especially considering that most do not buy products like Red Hat or other US based compaines distros but instead focus on local distro's. Great for their country, crappy for the US. While it is preferable on slashdot to think of congress critters as being bought and paid for by the industry in reality some think exactly along the lines I laid out, more piracy and more switching to free software equals less taxes and less jobs for americans.

    Note, I do not necassarily agree with the above statements but it is something to think about.
  • Discount (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rf0 (159958) <rghf@fsck.me.uk> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @03:57AM (#6802859) Homepage
    Just wait until MS comes along and offers deep deep discount with lots of tech support.

    Rus
  • by EzInKy (115248) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @04:00AM (#6802866)
    By stimulating people to write software for free, the government doesn't have to worry about creating jobs that require monetary payment. Whoever came up with this plan is a fucking genius!!!!

    Contrary to poplular opinion, it costs money to create, distribute, and train people to use free software. The obvious benefit for Brazilians is that the money earned from writing it stays in Brazil rather than fattening the already bulging coffers of a certain U.S. monopoly.
  • by EzInKy (115248) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @04:09AM (#6802893)
    t is. However I wonder how much of OSS uptake is due to the poor state a lot of world economies are in because of the World Bank?

    Possibly, but more likely it is due to the fact that when a government spends money on Microsoft software the money goes to Microsoft which does nothing to stimulate the local economy. Even if it costs them twice as much to switch to free software they still come out ahead in the end because the money spent can be spent paying people who are far more likely than Microsoft to buy other Brazillian products and services.
  • by EzInKy (115248) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @04:23AM (#6802925)
    With all these problems the Brazillian government certainly has better things to do with its people's money than renew Microsoft licenses.
  • by EzInKy (115248) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @04:46AM (#6802977)
    The software will be written by others. You are naive to think that Brazil will now hire more programmers. In fact the opposite will hapen, it will FIRE more programmers. Brazil will use the FREE software that others write, i.e. you. Didn't you read the fucking article?

    They will need to programmers and administrators to maintain and run the systems. But, even if they didn't it still money that stays in Brazil and out of Bill Gate's pockets.
  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OzJimbob (129746) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @05:04AM (#6803019) Homepage
    I don't see how Microsoft could keep up this kind of behaviour in the long run. Imagine they give Brazil Windows and Office for free. What happens when Argentina starts examining open source software? What about Japan? UK? Even the US? Wouldn't they all demand the same deal "otherwise we'll go Open Source"?

    Before you know it, Microsoft have given every government on the planet free software. How long before large businesses and even individuals start making the same threats?

    Microsoft will continue to attempt to disuade people from using Open Source by spreading lies / exaggerating deficiencies. All that Open Source needs to do is prove their lies wrong, and polish their software so Windows doesn't look as attractive. And we're most of the way there!
  • Cheap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tsa (15680) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @05:10AM (#6803026) Homepage
    I think in countries like Brazil, India and China where labour is cheap it's even cheaper to move to another software system than in the 'Western' countries because the migration process takes a lot of effort (and thus man-hours).
  • by tugrul (750) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @05:24AM (#6803063)
    We win regardless.

    I'm not so sure about that.

    Either Microsoft will keep cutting prices [...] with the resulting reduced margins and hopefully dropping profitability

    Thats short term. They might not be earning their full potential, but they aren't bleeding. And in return for that mild payment, they buy the lucrative lockin of a relatively virgin market. This is no loss on their part, this is investing into cultivating a stable market.

    or people will see through them and they'll lose customers.

    If they can resist the increasingly cheap instant gratification.

    What Microsoft doesn't seem to understand is that cutting prices to the bone only really works when you are fighting against a small group of smaller companies that you can bleed dry by consistently undercutting.

    We have something that can be as easily bled dry as money... talent. If more untapped markets cave into Microsoft like Thailand, there goes more potential talent that could help us reach the threshold for really scaring the bejeezus out of them.
  • by Tarakona (700486) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @05:27AM (#6803072)
    IMHO Brazil takes a step that we Europeans should be taking as well. If Microsoft products are being used in government agencies and the national industries, the know-how and the jobs would reside in the US and Europe will depend on the US as far as Information Technology is concerned. Furthermore, there would be a lot of money in license fees flowing from Europe to the US. IMHO it is clear that the US would have an advantage over Europe they would NOT use for the good of Europe but for their own.

    Thus, a healthy European software industrie based on OSS is needed in order to be independent of the US.

    I truly hope that our parliaments will realize this before it is too late.

  • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @06:21AM (#6803257) Homepage
    So what you're saying is that the rest of the world is absolutely 100% correct in changing to OSS ?

    I agree. It's a complete waste of money to send license-money to the USA for programs that could be better and cheaper made at home.

    Take Germany as an example. There's around 80 million people, and around 50 million computers. The average cost for Windows and Office alone is something like 400.

    If you assume the average user buys a new version of software from MS every 3 years on the average, then this works out as 6.6 billion a year.

    For this money you could hire about 130.000 full time programmers permanently. Read that again.

    It gets worse: Even if you *did* need 130.000 programmers permanently to keep Linux and OpenOffice competitive for the tasks you need, it would *still* be preferable to hire them, rather than buy the software from MS.

    You see, those programmers would pay taxes. They would also do most of their shopping in Germany, paying VAT. They'd hire german carpenters and electricians to build them houses etc etc.

    In reality, it'd probably be cheaper and better for the local economy of Germany to hire a quarter million coders permanently instead of buying the software from MS.

    Something to think about indeed.

  • by jandersen (462034) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @06:26AM (#6803274)
    "The US has an abundance of natural resources. It has lots of trees, minerals, fertile soil and water. Granted all those resources are being abused but there is enough left to last for at least another generation if not two. If we cut back even a little on consumption they might last for decades."

    Yes, USA has some natural resources, but you are very far away from being able to sustain your living standard on your own. This is not just about having iron ore in the mountains ; have you any idea how much each and every American has to cut back on consumption in order to get down to European levels, not to mention eg. China or others? You guys have a completely grotesque overconsumption of things like energy and clean water.

    "Most of the rest of world has already eaten through it's natural resources and will be buying them from us for a long time."

    Hmm, yes, right. Try to read something about this subject. Why do you think your rich-boy's-club president and his thugs chose to attack Iraq - a country with huge oil reserves? Because their hearts were bleeding for all those poor Iraqis who had to go without American style demockery?

    "Combine that with the enourmous amount of captial that has accumulated in this country and you will realize that we will not be lining up for handouts anytime soon."

    Your enormous wealth is based almost entirely on American military power and presence in the world. As long as the US Dollar is the de facto standard currency for most international trade, it is easy for American companies to borrow money whereas other countries are at a disadvantage; in effect America controls the world market that way. However, the Dollar is losing out to eg. the Chinese RMB and the Euro (OPEC have been talking about trading in Euro - another very good reason for Bush to go to war against Iraq, as a warning).

    On top of this most American companies and individuals are in deep debt; so I would say that America's incredibly fabulous wealth is just a bit fictitious. You may find yourselves looking for handouts before you think.
  • by ender81b (520454) <billd AT inebraska DOT com> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @06:32AM (#6803291) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, that's kindof what Microsoft and some members of the US government are afraid of. Obviously some US companies will adapt (like red hat and IBM) but people are afraid of a business model which allows for no one country to dominate the market and is, basically, free. The cost-of-entry barriers are virtually non existent for something like linux, compared to - say - car manufacturing, chip production, or heavy industry. Interesting times indeed.

    It would be far better for just about any country to invest in a localized linux distro but, and this is a big but, Linux still isn't as good as either Windows or Mac OS X *all around* for everybody. Once this starts to change in a few years, as it has been, I'm sure we will see Microsoft dropping their prices.

    BTW, I would guess your figure is off by a factor of at least 2 considering things like volume licensing and the fact that most sales of office/windows are via OEM sales from manufacturers, far cheaper than retail versions. I would say the total cost would be closer to something like $2-3 Billion - not an insignificant chunk of change by any means.
  • I disagree (Score:4, Insightful)

    by haeger (85819) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @06:39AM (#6803319)
    Open source is bad for those who produce and sell shrink wrapped software. That is not "ALL", not by a longshot.

    Most people, like me, work for a company doing inhouse development, modifying existing programs and writing new ones.

    Open source is also good for "local" developers, since no program fits a company perfectly and there's always room for improvements. That's a few new jobs right there for those who want it.

    Please don't try to scare the Americans with some old McCarthy'isms about socialism and communism. It's not fun and it's not doing anyone any good.

    Also, if hospitals and other government agencies can pay less for software and have more money to heal people, I don't have a problem with that. The same goes for other companies, if they can cut prices by not paying license costs, I'm just happy about it.

    .haeger

  • Re:Answer me this. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amcguinn (549297) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @07:00AM (#6803379) Homepage Journal

    As a supporter of capitalism, answer these:

    How many profitable, wealth-creating, job-creating companies use software?

    How many profitable, wealth-creating, job-creating companies sell software?

    If software becomes much cheaper, because more software can work from public free code bases, how many companies do better and how many companies do worse?

    As an application programmer for, say, a bank, what is the effect of cheaper infrastructure software on my job security? If the projects being considered for me to work on become cheaper does that make them more likely or less likely to be approved?

    If you work for Microsoft, you have my sympathy, but there are more of us than there are of you. Capitalism isn't about producing products, it's about producing products for customers, and when something else comes along that's better for the customer, his benefit outweighs the loss to the producer whose product no longer meets the need.

  • by mhifoe (681645) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @07:10AM (#6803409)
    Do you think economic jingoism by Brazil is right? Would you like your own country to do it as well? Your silence and changing the subject says volumes.

    The US and Europe wrote the book on this sort of thing.
    On the one hand they espouse free markets whilst subsidising inefficient industries and imposing massive import tarrifs. Farming and coal are a particularly good example.

    It's a bit lame to complain when other countries do the same thing.

  • by hoytt (469787) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @07:23AM (#6803449)
    The US has an abundance of natural resources. It has lots of trees, minerals, fertile soil and water. Granted all those resources are being abused but there is enough left to last for at least another generation if not two. If we cut back even a little on consumption they might last for decades. Most of the rest of world has already eaten through it's natural resources and will be buying them from us for a long time.

    Except for that one thing on which the US economy floats: oil.
    Right now the US uses about 20-25% of the world's oil. All those trees are nice but you can't drive your car on it. The Alaskan field might bring relief to the US market, if environmental problems can be averted and the oil turns out to be as easy to use as the oil from the Gulf area.
  • by FreeUser (11483) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @08:42AM (#6803788)
    I'm be interested to see how Microsoft react to this. E.g. Counter offers, as per the City of Munich decision to go with Linux desktops: Munich spurns Ballmer's rebates

    Microsoft really screwed the pooch on this one.
    • A plethora of countries announce various free software and open source initiatives, emphesizing a transition away from foreign proprietary software to home-grown, or at leat home-enhanced, free and open software.
    • Microsoft panics, sends Balmer et. al. down to buy off politicians and entice officials with obscenely cheap ("dumping" prices) licenses, no activation requirements, and liberal sitewide licenses that expire in a few years.
    • Microsoft clearly believes it has offered these foolish governments something akin to "sucker lines" of cocain: a free (or very inexpensive) hit followed by the client paying through the nose for additional fixes.
    • Instead, all of these countries obtained the right to legally use Microsoft, for pennies on the dollar, for the time they needed to transition to a free and open environment. During this transition these countries would have had to run Microsoft products anyway, either dealing with piracy accusations or paying full price for licenses. It isn't like one can switch an entire country over to GNU/Linux overnight! Microsoft foolishly gave these governments extraordinarilly cheap licenses to run their products during this critical (and expensive) transition phase.
    • Now Microsoft cannot go after them and harass them for "piracy", or even earn a one-off full licensing fee for the duration of the transition (which almost certainly will require a year or two to complete, during which time these countries still have to have Microsoft licenses: licenses Redmond was so good to give away for pennies in their institutional panic).


    Whether this is an example of third world brilliance outthinking their arrogant American counterparts (getting Microsoft to effectively subsidize their move to free software by selling them such inexpensive, limited time licenses, thereby decreasing their costs of transition dramatically), or just countries getting incredibly lucky as a result of Redmond's panic, I don't know. Probably a combination (not to mention examples of outright corruption, with corrupt politicians being replaced by less corrupt ones who revive these initiatives, examples of short sighted politicans balking when it comes time to pay the piper and renew licenses, instead renewing the free software initiatives they tabled earlier, and who knows how many other variations on this theme).

    In any event, the irony is delicious. We as a community lamented the short sightedness of so many third world countries selling out to Microsoft in exchange for cheap licenses that would expire in a few years, when in fact Microsoft was being far too clever for their own good, helping to underwrite all these nations' transition to freeer platforms. They squandered their last chance to get licensing fees from these nations, and effectively did nothing to prevent them from transitioning away from their product anyway.

    Or at least some of these nations, like Thailand and Brazil. Who knows how it will play out elsewhere, but for now I'm chortling with delicious glee.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @09:01AM (#6803906)
    I think Brazil is much bigger than Microsoft despite our tragic currency devaluation.

    Doesn't matter. If MS convinces Shrubya to send in the troops, you're done for.
  • The big picture (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AlastairBurt (3604) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @09:17AM (#6804018)
    Many of the comments here see this as the start of something big in
    Brazil. In many ways, it is perhaps better to see it as the culmination of
    a process that has being going on a long time. There have already been free
    software initiatives at many levels in this the fifth largest country in the
    world. Most notable of these is in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, which
    hosts each year a major free software event [softwarelivre.org]. I also know that in Brasilia itself they have been
    funding free software development to support [interlegis.gov.br], for example, information
    exchange between all the different legislatures in Brazil.

    Moreover, the support for free software would seem to extend across
    political parties. A workshop I attended in Sao Paulo last year, to
    encourage cooperation between Latin America and the EU in the IT was
    explicitly asked to be about free software by the administration preceding
    that of Lula da Silva. This means the Brazilians already have a wealth of
    experience in using free software and for finding mechanisms to fund its
    development. It also means that there are already a lot of firms and
    administrations that have committed to this process. Some of the comments
    here have suggested that Microsoft must merely flash out its cheque book to
    block the push for free software. I think it would have to flash out many
    cheque books at many levels and would step on the toes of many local
    interests.

    Two other aspects of free software in Brazil do not seem to have received
    much attention. The first is the wealth of good free software programmers
    already in Brazil. Several key Zope developers come from Brazil and the
    first language into which the popular content management system Plone was
    localised was Brazilian Portuguese. A lot of good work is also going on in
    free software GIS systems such as SPRING.

    The second aspect is represented by the presence in the congress of the
    Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil. I note that the title of the congress
    mentions "free software" and not "open source". The interest is not just in
    economics or software engineering, it is also cultural and extends into
    other areas, such as the support for creative commons [creativecommons.org]
    licenses.

    Viva Brazil! Viva o software livre!

    for-the-people.org [for-the-people.org]
  • by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @09:26AM (#6804092) Homepage Journal
    Brazil & Germany are hardly 3rd world countries.

    Jaysyn
  • by jlusk4 (2831) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @09:42AM (#6804230)
    You're assuming the deal(s) done today won't come unravelled tomorrow. MS is hoping the following plays out: the target countries stay w/MS "for the time being" while (a) MS continues to campaign for them stay w/MS longer-term AND (b) MS continues to improve Windows. A year or two from now (ok, 2-4 years from now), things could be different, and MS is hoping that they can keep users until then and get another shot. Don't think the days of vaporware are past; even today, a sucker continues to be born every minute.

    John.
  • by Universal Nerd (579391) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @09:54AM (#6804340)
    The real shame is that innovations such as these will not make it to mainstream press around here.
  • by Jamie Lokier (104820) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @11:08AM (#6804935) Homepage

    I mean what advantages does this development give to Linux users?

    It makes Brazil one of those nice places where an individual can develop things independently and share their work, and are encouraged to, legally?

    Unlike the USA, Japan and (as of next week) EU, where individuals and small businesses are selectively persecuted, and always under threat.

    There they have a system called "patents on virtually every widely used idea", most of which are harmless but a few are selectively enforced. Much like bad laws - everyone ignores them but a few targetted folk are persecuted with severe and often unreasonable consequences.

    The lie of the land at the moment suggests a minor brain drain, from Europe to Brazil, precisely because of their more enlightened approach to creativity and development.

    -- Jamie

  • by Nasheer (179086) on Wednesday August 27, 2003 @01:25PM (#6806350) Journal
    "Microsoft can probably no longer buy their way into Government contracts with 'discounts' and whatever other tactics they might use."

    Yes, they can. they can offer their software for free. Wait, they still had to open the source. I guess this is what they mean with "freedom is priceless".

"Someone's been mean to you! Tell me who it is, so I can punch him tastefully." -- Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Mouse

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