Linux in Government: Will Schwarzenegger Terminate Windows?
In a paper called "The Open Source Desktop Experience", Michael Cave--knowingly or not--assumes the role of a cleverly camouflaged comrade. Follow the argument made in that paper, and it will undermine Governor Schwarzenegger's budget saving open-source initiative in California.
Whereas other Californians have described real financial savings over a period of years in a paper called "SO10 Explore Open Source Alternatives", Cave presents a misleading view of open-source desktops. The savings discussed in the SO10 paper are available, and we discuss them below.
Having started an open-source initiative in Texas, I can identify many of the pitfalls appearing on the horizon for California. As a former resident of southern California, I understood the unfriendly business climate and the power of special interests in the state, as described by Governor Schwarzenegger during his campaign.
Special interests will attempt to undermine open-source efforts. Although many consider California to be a progressive state, fiscally conservative Republicans have had the most success in achieving open-source adoption. Consider, for example, Governor Mitt Romney, the Republican governor of Massachusetts. In January of this year, through the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, he issued a final policy on the use of open-source software and open standards. The policy requires commonwealth officials to consider all relevant factors, including the potential for excessive dependence on a single supplier, before they spend taxpayer money on information technology.
After failures in Oregon and Texas, Governor Romney's actions came as a breath of fresh air to groups advocating open-source software. Following the order, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Utah, Missouri, Kansas, Virginia and West Virginia joined Massachusetts in forming the Government Open Code Collaborative Repository, which any state and/or municipality can join and contribute open-source applications and technology for other governments units.
Aside from cutting existing costs in California, new technologies required under the Department of Homeland Security could burden taxpayers further. The President's SmartBuy program and its federally sponsored open-source repository, Core.gov, will help eliminate the costs of complying with new standards. Novell, an open-source vendor, describes SmartBuy as "an initiative of the federal government to support effective enterprise level software management through the aggregate buying of commercial software government-wide in an effort to achieve bulk savings". Novell also says that it has:
created a series of special SmartBuy software offerings and service levels, including special product SmartBuy bundles for infrastructure, Linux servers and desktops, web services, and, soon, secure identity management. These bundles will provide federal customers flexibility on both deployment and pricing, as well as significantly easing the contract negotiation and licensing process for individual agencies.
The SmartBuy program goes beyond aggregating IT purchases. On July 1, 2004, the Executive Office of the President of the United States issued a memorandum for Senior Procurement Executives and Chief Information Officers. The memorandum emphasizes the President's previous memorandum titled "Maximizing Use of SmartBuy and Avoiding Duplication of Agency Activities". In this latest memorandum, OMB 04-16, the President issued the following statements:
This reminder applies to acquisitions of all software, whether it is proprietary or Open Source Software. Open Source Software's source code is widely available so it may be used, copied, modified, and redistributed. It is licensed with certain common restrictions, which generally differ from proprietary software. Frequently, the licenses require users who distribute Open Source Software, whether in its original form or as modified, to make the source code widely available. Subsequent licenses usually include the terms of the original license, thereby requiring wide availability. These differences in licensing may affect the use, the security, and the total cost of ownership of the software and must be considered when an agency is planning a software acquisition.
Based on these memoranda, it would appear that the federal government as well as other states certainly will assist California implement its savings plans