Microsoft Lobbying Practices Accused Again

Once again, Microsoft has been accused over it’s UK government lobbying practices, according to an article in Computer Weekly yesterday.

In the article by Brian Glick, a former director of strategy to David Cameron while opposition leader and as prime minister, Steve Hilton has claimed that Microsoft threatened to shut down research facilities in Conservative constituencies over Tory plans for government IT reforms.

According to The Guardian, Hilton told an event in London to promote his new book that, “When we proposed this, Microsoft phoned Conservative MPs with Microsoft R&D facilities in their constituencies and said, ‘We will close them down in your constituency if this goes through’.”

It appears that Microsoft has lobbied for years to prevent the government pursuing its open standards policy, which arguably levels the playing field for other software vendors. After a somewhat controversial consultation process, the adoption of the open source Open Document Format (ODF) as the standard for document formats was confirmed by government in July last year.

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) had previously approved the open source Open Document Format (ODF) as an international data format standard. The ODF Alliance, a cross-section of industry associations with more than 150 members worldwide, academic institutions and suppliers, had all been lobbying for the decision. The ODF Alliance was created to resolve the potential problem of proprietary software limiting the ability of governments to access, retrieve and use records and documents in the future.

While it is often good sport to knock Microsoft for being a giant of the industry, and stifling (or buying up) the competition, if these accusations are true then the criticism is justly deserved. Round the office, we suspect that the motivation may be less about open standards, and more about potential market share and loss of revenue. If government should enact the long threatened Open Source initiative, then the writing may be on the wall for the big ticket software packages, at least in public service.

Perhaps that would be a good thing for consumers in general, and tax payers in particular.

For more on the story of the open source Open Document Format see the following links:

New Windows XP Support Deal Vetoed by Whitehall Technology Chiefs

In an amazing new twist to the seemingly endless death throws of Windows XP, it seems that someone in the corridors of power has managed to negotiate a contract with Microsoft to further extend support, and so prolong use in government departments.

Sales of Windows XP licenses to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) ceased on June 30, 2008, although they continued for netbooks until October 2010. Extended support for Windows XP ended on April 8, 2014, after which the operating system ceased receiving further support or security updates to most users.

When the previous XP support arrangement was signed last year, the intention was to give 12 months breathing space for government users to move off XP. However, in a move that seems to be right out of an episode of Yes Minister, the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) had negotiated a contract with Microsoft to replace the one-year deal with a contract to support XP and Windows Server 2003, which reaches its end of life on 14 July 2015.

However, according to Computer Weekly sources, the proposed deal was put together without involvement from the Technology Leaders Network, the forum for government CTOs that governs Whitehall technology policy. Fortunately the Whitehall technology chiefs have vetoed new Windows XP support deal.

It is difficult to describe the continuing use of this ancient and venerable Operating System (OS) in government circles, without making reference to zombies, or the walking dead. Whether the metaphor refers to the Windows XP operating system, or the civil servants haunting the corridors of power, we will leave it to your imagination.

For more information on Microsoft and the Extended Windows XP Support see: