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Israel's Finance Ministry To Distribute OpenOffice 521

dudeman2 writes "Israel National News reports that The Israel Finance Ministry said Sunday it will begin distributing Open Office for free as of next week. The ministry said that it would begin to distribute thousands of Open Office CD-ROMs at public computer centers and later on at community centers throughout the country, 'in a bid to reduce the technological gap between the rich and poor in Israel'."
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Israel's Finance Ministry To Distribute OpenOffice

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  • Fantastic! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Limburgher ( 523006 ) on Monday December 29, 2003 @04:26PM (#7829891) Homepage Journal
    Now this is a page the U.S. SHOULD take from Israel's playbook!

    Not to the start a flamewar on the subject of Arab-Israeli relations, but just imagine the impact if the U.S. gov't did this! I'd start getting .sxc as attachments instead of .doc! Then, the economically challenged could buy a cheap PC, or get one used from a church or something, and immediately make it more useful!

    • Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tuxette ( 731067 ) *
      I already make the Norwegian government send me things in non-M$ format; it usually ends up in .pdf-format. They are required by law to do this for me. Mowahaha.
    • Then, the economically challenged could buy a cheap PC, or get one used from a church or something, and immediately make it more useful!

      Don't wait for the gubmint. Take care of it yourself. [moore4yates.org]

      Hey, just an idea that is taking off. We closed the digital divide by 6 computers this last weekend, and have about 80 more in the wings...and some private funding upwards of 5 figures to help smooth out the process. And this is soley from word of mouth and friends, part time over a couple of months.

      And yes, we p
    • So people will switch from a word processor to a spreadsheet? (.sxc is a "Calc" file, I'm sure you mean .sxw files, which are "Writer" files.)

      I already distribute .sxw files, and it annoys most people. I tell them why, and then send them a PDF. That usually annoys business people too, since they can't edit it. I tell them that if they MUST edit it, I can send them an RTF. I'm sure they roll their eyes and think, "Dammit, send me a friggin DOC file, you twit."

      Oh well. The price you pay for being enlig
    • Re:Fantastic! (Score:3, Informative)

      by deego ( 587575 )
      > Now this is a page the U.S. SHOULD take from Israel's playbook! just imagine the impact if the U.S. gov't did this! I'd start getting .sxc as attachments instead

      US government, on the other hand, has been known to oppose free-software-consideration initiatives in other countries, citing that as "meddling with the free market".
  • by H8X55 ( 650339 ) <jason@r@thomas.gmail@com> on Monday December 29, 2003 @04:29PM (#7829909) Homepage Journal
    'in a bid to reduce the technological gap between the rich and poor in Israel'.

    And in a similar move City Officials in Hong Kong announced plans to widely distribute illegal CD-R cracked copies of Micrsoft Office 2003.

    oh yeah, wait, that's already being done without a government sanction.
    • Actually, it's possible that is being done with government sanction. I once spoke with a high-up Microsoft exec who said that at that time (mid 90s), the Chinese government was their chief concern as far as piracy goes. According to him, they went all out by even copying the holograms on the license certs.
      • by Detritus ( 11846 )
        I don't know if they are still doing it, but at one time, most of the pirate CD plants were owned and operated by the People's Liberation Army. The PLA owned and operated a wide variety of businesses. They were put under pressure by the central government to divest themselves of some of these businesses.
  • by mikeophile ( 647318 ) on Monday December 29, 2003 @04:29PM (#7829918)
    Will Bill now start paying the Israeli government to use Microsoft products?
  • Two questions. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <teamhasnoi AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday December 29, 2003 @04:30PM (#7829923) Journal
    Is it true that there is no Hebrew localized version of Office? I can see that being a primary reason for the distribution.

    If there is a Hebrew localization of Office, what is to stop a zillion people from pirating it? (like everywhere else)

    • Re:Two questions. (Score:5, Informative)

      by nehril ( 115874 ) on Monday December 29, 2003 @04:53PM (#7830143)
      if i recall correctly, the problem was the Mac version of Office not providing Hebrew support. OS X provides quite rich hebrew support in their libraries, so the technical barriers to a Hebrew Mac Office were perceived to be quite low, nobody is sure why MS wouldn't do it. There were no plans for adding it either. The Israeli government offered to pay for programmer time to add support but MS still refused.

      This is where the Office monopoly started to look sour, it looked like MS was not going to do a Hebrew Mac Office "just because. Buy Windows." This demonstrated the effects of monopoly lock in and led to the search for alternatives.
      • office is still a carbon application. the rich language features are pure cocoa. in fact, putting them into any application is trivial. i seriously doubt that microsoft will migrate to using cocoa in office. in fact, i don't even see another office version for os x. with the introduction of keynote and safari, i guess apple doesn't either.
      • Mellel (Score:2, Informative)

        by useosx ( 693652 )
        Mellel [redlers.com] is a word processor for OS X that is made by and Israeli company which supports right-to-left languages including Hebrew. It's very well designed and attractive (aside from the logo) but it's a proprietary format and the RTF export is lacking. I'm sure these will be improved in future updates. Oh, it's $25.
      • Re:Two questions. (Score:2, Informative)

        by Branka96 ( 628759 )
        It was Apple who did not provide support for Hebrew and Arabic and a lot of other languages in OS X 10.0. The first version of Office for OS X targeted OS X 10.1 which did not have support for Hebrew and Arabic. 10.1 was released 9/25/2001. Office X was released 11/19/2001. It wasn't before Apple release OS X 10.2 (8/26/2002) that the OS had support for Hebrew and Arabic. There is no reason to believe this is more than an engineering decision. Delay support for a feature until the OS supports it. I would be
      • Re:Two questions. (Score:2, Informative)

        by sigxcpu ( 456479 )
        M$ has a big ad thingy in Israel about "copy software - go to jail".

        Which is a lie, since Israeli copyright law dos not hold for private, none-profit use.
        If you want protection from that, you have to sell your program as a product, not as a "creation".
        But then you can't sell it without a decent warenty ...

        So It appears that the ad strategy has backfired.
    • Ofcourse there is a Hebrew localized version. Hebrew localization is one of the things that made M$ products much more popular from OSS which hardly had (past form) any of this support.

      "what is to stop a zillion people from pirating it?"
      Nothing does! Office is warezed all around the country.

      To tell you the truth, the reason why their started distributing OO and OSS is because the following story:
      The treasury department had a couple of badly licensed machines, M$ then got pissed and made unreasonable claim
  • Installation Costs? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by VivianC ( 206472 ) <internet_update@ ... inus threevowels> on Monday December 29, 2003 @04:30PM (#7829927) Homepage Journal
    From the Article:
    The ministry is aware that despite the substantial savings accrued by not buying Microsoft licenses, there would also be considerable installment costs.

    I have installed Open Office, Star Office, Word Perfect Office and Microsoft Office for various clients over the past two years. Maybe I'm missing something about a large scale deploy, but they all seem about the same for installation. I can even use SMS to drop the package automatically. Any idea what they are talking about?
    • by GMontag ( 42283 )
      He may be referring to hidden costs like having to learn the quirks of the way it works, i.e., the differences between it and MS Office.

      Also, he may be thinking that someone has to go to each desktop rather than letting the users install.

      All of that is just guessing and I have not used Open Office yet.
    • theyre most likely bundling training, data-base switches, and maybe full linux installation into 'installment'.
    • "Installment," not "installation." Installments are payments at periodic intervals. Remember, Microsoft has gone to a subscription-based licensing model. Or they could be talking about financing the cost, in which case there'd be payments (and interest/processing costs). Either way, it's not installation they're talking about.
    • by pigpilot ( 733494 ) on Monday December 29, 2003 @05:25PM (#7830421) Homepage

      When we moved our administration/secretarial staff onto OpenOffice it took about half an hour per worker to get them familiar with the basic differences. It also degraded productivity significantly for a couple of days as each worker got used to the different ways of doing things.

      Many of these more experienced users also used some Macros and links to Access databases which entailed some time and effort to work around.

      The process was quicker for workers with less experience with MS Office, but then those users were much less productive when it comes to word-processing etc. so it was difficult to tell if they were having any additional problems with OpenOffice.

      Our move entailed a half an hours workplace training, which meant half an hours of the trainers time and half an hour of the admin worker's time, plus an unquantified loss of efficiency for a couple of days.

      On our salary scales it would come to a minimum cost of 10 pounds per worker, although with loss of productivity it could easily be 50 pounds depending on how slow the worker was to adapt. If you scale these kinds of costs up for thousands of users then you have a significant issue.

      We made the move in order to stop using unauthorised copies, so it was cheaper than going legit by buying the correct MS Licenses, but if the Isreali Government already has the correct Licenses then there may be minimal short term savings, indeed there is probably a significant short term cost to be justified.

    • If you have been using SMS to install and manage OO.org and StarOffice, our Windows desktop team would like to toalk to you. They seem to think this is a major hurdle.
  • You're forgetting... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Oen_Seneg ( 673357 ) * on Monday December 29, 2003 @04:32PM (#7829958)

    The Scots got there first...

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/4/34593.html [theregister.co.uk]

  • by js3 ( 319268 ) on Monday December 29, 2003 @04:35PM (#7829983)
    giving people free cds is like giving them free gasoline. it is almost useless to anyone without a car.
    • How is that a bad thing, though? Better than nothing.

      Once you have free gasoline, when you do decide to buy a car you'll have to pay less..
    • So? Computer prices keep dropping while software prices have not.

      Right now, MS Windows + Office costs almost as much as computer does. Since an OS and office suite is pretty much required for a computer to be usefull, this is the same as giving them a $300 dollar discount on the computer, which lowers the barrier for entry significantly. In a few years, a computer will not be an economic burden for anyone living in a first world country.

      $500 Decent Computer
      $200 Decent Monitor

      $200 MS Windows XP Home Editi
    • giving people free cds is like giving them free gasoline

      Actually, it's worse: gasoline at least has resale value.

  • Consider The Source (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Eberlin ( 570874 ) on Monday December 29, 2003 @04:36PM (#7829997) Homepage
    A lot of people will dismiss this as a "whoop-tee-doo" gesture and that would be an expected knee-jerk reaction. The thing here is that one must consider the source -- WHO is giving the stuff away. It's not the same as me burning a hundred OSS cd's and leaving them out for people to take. This is a GOVERNMENT entity doing this, and thus has more "umph" to it.

    This is most definitely a good thing.
  • Negotiation tactic (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Ministry of Finance sources told Globes that the decision could be reversed if Microsoft Israel shows willingness to compromise on its pricing policy for tens of thousands of computer stations at government offices.

    Sounds to me like Isreal is just trying to force Microsoft into giving them a price break on Office.
  • Misleading name? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wumpus ( 9548 ) <IAmWumpusNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday December 29, 2003 @04:40PM (#7830017)
    Israel National News, or Arutz Sheva (Channel 7) as it's more commonly known, is a heavily right wing biased media outlet whose management was recently sentenced to various prison terms for operating an illegal radio station.

    More details here [haaretz.com]

    It's an odd source for tech news.
  • by digrieze ( 519725 ) on Monday December 29, 2003 @04:49PM (#7830091)
    Despite the anti-jewish trolls (someone mod these jerks down PLEASE, this is a TECH page!!!!). The decision Israel made points out both advantage and disadvantages of OS like OpenOffice.org.

    First, there are still compatibility issues. Although OpenOffice is a great office suite as is it still has problems converting from other formats. Therefore, even though it is free, government agencies that MUST access historical files in the original form do incur further expense in making an accurate file conversion.

    Second, when you have a government agency that requires certain forms to be filled out electronically you have to make sure that the people filling out those forms have access to the programs to do this. This problem is exacerbated by the first concern previously mentioned.

    Israel seems to have thought this through. That's why they're giving the disks away and also why they're biting the bullet and paying for properly converting the files (part of the installation process).

    If OS software is going to ever really make any imprint in the government or any other institution we're going to have to be honest. OS may be cheap, but nothings truly free.

  • From the article -

    If the decision is carried out, the government will save millions of shekels a year in licenses, but could face much higher costs in other areas.

    I'm largely technology agnostic, but I think a large chunk of the savings would be a one-term investment. For example, the need to train and familiarize people with Linux and the setting up of support centers would need to be taken care of. Also, the need to establish a solid base of Linux usage, complete with folks for Linux administration a
    • Um, I don't think that Linux is germane to this discussion. OOo is cross-platform. I would think that retraining users is trivial for all but a few headcases.
      • The article mentions that the programs are for use on the Linux platform, I shall quote them for you -

        Open Office suite includes all the functions supplied by Microsoft Office - a word processing program, a spreadsheet program, and a presentation manager similar to PowerPoint. The programs can be downloaded for free at www.openoffice.co.il. The programs are for use on the Linux operating system, which is a free alternative to the Windows operating system.

        Hence, my comment on Linux usage :)
    • I'd also point out that a large proportion of the cost of installment will be paid to Israeli nationals rather than to MS. Thus, the Israeli government can tax it, and the extra training that becomes more valuable in their country because of their decision further narrows the technology gap, giving a 2 for 1 deal on the rate of change they are trying to acomplish here.
  • Threat or Real? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Monday December 29, 2003 @04:51PM (#7830120) Journal
    Is this a threat to Microsoft? Or is this "for real"?

    If they actually distribute the CDs, is there a difference?

    I consider this a followup on this story at Linux Today [linuxtoday.com] about their threat to use Linux instead of MS-Windows.

    As such, we are definitely seeing the economics of competition and choice re-enter the marketplace, and no matter how you look at it, this is a GOOD THING.
  • Not just for Linux (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Milo Fungus ( 232863 ) on Monday December 29, 2003 @05:06PM (#7830265)

    The programs are for use on the Linux operating system, which is a free alternative to the Windows operating system.

    OpenOffice is a cross-platform suite. It's not just for Linux. I use the Windows version all the time.

    Free software for the win32 platform is (I think) an important front of the F/OSS movement. Most people are unwilling to take the plunge straight into Linux. Using free software on win32 is a way to wade in and test the waters before jumping in. The win32 port of The GIMP was the first thing that got me really excited about free software, and I have since migrated to more free and open source applications and operating systems. For those of you running windows who would like to check out some free software, follow the links below:

    • GNUWin are great projects to point folks at Win32 GNU apps, but you should point folks directly to the source, and not to GNUWin sites which haven't been updated recently... rather point them at the source [openoffice.org]. Faster mirror too.

      Oh, ack, just as I was double-checking my facts, I see that GNUWin II updated to OOo 1.1.0 today (Dec/29th), but still, my point is valid if this article was posted yesterday or a new version of OOo came out tomorrow.

      I also recommend for Win32 users my own list of [L]GPL [roysdon.net] apps that I
    • I noticed that bit too. I'm really happy with what I use Open Office for...dealing with that random .doc or .xls someone forwards to my laptop (XP, Alienware gaming dream box). They aren't my main authoring tools, but they cover the gap so I don't have to track down some dang office 97 license from way back and install the bloat again just to open what should have been a simple text document.

Last yeer I kudn't spel Engineer. Now I are won.