Sunday, January 08, 2006

LXer: Microsoft and Abramoff: Influence in an Anti-Trust Outcome?

"As a news organization, we first reported back in June that we had suspicions that ties existed between Jack Abramoff and Microsoft. In today's report, we offer new information to show that over the course of two years, from 1998-99, Jack Abramoff received $560,000 to lobby on behalf of Microsoft and additional money for his efforts on behalf of the BSA.

Abramoff's guilty plea of last week helps us make our case and allows us to demonstrate our suspicions regarding Microsoft's ties to the Bush administration. The guilty plea also allows us to question whether Microsoft received favorable treatment by the Bush Justice department by paying Abramoff and his aides and partners, starting with Ralph Reed."


Maybe my memory is fuzzy but... Didn't the original judge in this case (Jackson wasn't it?) spout off to the press regarding his feelings about Microsoft while the facts in the case were supposedly still under consideration? My memory is that if he hadn't stepped down there was a good chance for a mistrial and Microsoft would have loved that. It is also my recollection that this all started to unravel before Bush took office. That is not to say that the Bush administration has been a friend of Open Source, they certainly haven't. But the problems that the Federal government has in this area are far more insidious than who is in the oval office.

I worked in government all during the Clinton administration and it was during that time that the Feds stopped allowing proposal documents to be submitted in WordPerfect format, or in fact any format other than Word. This was a huge boon for Microsoft as many companies (mine included) dumped every bit of non-Microsoft infrastructure in favor of the Microsoft equivalents. Sub-departments at Energy were told they could not continue running OS/2 even though they were delighted with it. I didn't stick around to see if they dumped Novel, but I'm sure they did. Was this all a conspiracy formed in the Clinton administration?

Sadly, our Federal bureaucracy is composed largely of non-technical managers who are way over their heads when it comes to these types of decisions. Offer the right person in a department a glass paperweight to use your stuff and likely all of his peers will follow, like lemmings, afraid to make an independent decision on anything.

What is needed here is legislation (and I agree that neither party seems to see this need as a priority). On top of the legislation, which would mandate a more competitive process for software engineering we need new blood in these entrench bureaucracies. I don't know how this will come about without firing some of the more clueless department heads, and I don't see any such thing coming down the pike. Our only hope is that some other countries will adopt Open Source and embarrass the hell out of us when it comes to productivity, security and (not often spoken of) the ability to control your own life-cycle methodologies independent of vendor planned obsolescence.

Anyway, I'm glad to see you reporting on this and it would be a great outcome if this scandal helped shed the light of day on bad software practices at the Fed.

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