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07 July 2010, 15:30

Open source vendors lose Swiss Federal Administrative Tribunal case

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FOSS Logo Open source software vendors in Switzerland have lost their Federal Administrative Tribunal case against the award of an IT contract to Microsoft. The court declined to hear the complaint. The verdict can still be challenged in the Federal Court of Switzerland, the country's highest court.

Eighteen open source vendors brought the case against Microsoft, following the award of a 42 million Swiss Franc contract from the Swiss Federal Office for Buildings and Logistics for extending licensing, maintenance and support, to Microsoft, following a restricted tender. The contract included the procurement of 10,500 desktop computers and 17,500 laptops. Companies contesting the tender process included Linux vendors Red Hat, Univention and Collax and groupware specialists Zarafa and Open-Xchange.

According to a report (German language link) in the Berner Zeitung newspaper, the Federal Administrative Tribunal stated in its verdict that the plaintiffs could not be considered potential suppliers for the contract and were therefore not affected by its being awarded to Microsoft. The contract was, according to the court, about the efficient continuing use of the state's existing IT systems, which have been based on Microsoft products since 1990. In the opinion of the court, these were not directly replaceable through products offered by the plaintiffs, meaning that they, the plaintiffs, were aiming to change the state's IT strategy.

The Berner Zeitung report says that one of the five judges was of the opinion that both open source suppliers and Microsoft were active in the software market in question. According to the dissenting judge, the award of the contract to Microsoft would mean that not only had the existing solution been retained, but the use of Microsoft products would be set in stone for the future. This would radically restrict the software market to a single supplier.

The case has been cited by open source advocates as an example of the need to support open standards and alternatives to proprietary products. In May 2009, parliamentarians from the CVP, SP, FDP, EVP, GLP and Green parties founded the digital sustainability parliamentary group to promote this end.

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