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[FYI] France vs BillG


Now it's France vs Bill Gates 

By Eva Pascoe
10 July 2000 

Strange goings on have been noted on the other side of the Channel,
and I don't mean overenthusiastic celebrations of France's Euro 2000
victory. While we have been whiling away the time watching football
and scoffing strawberries at Wimbledon, the French have been plotting
to change the fundamental rules governing the software industry. 

In a radical move, France is close to passing a law that will make
open-source code obligatory for applications used by all of its
government computer systems. Since the French government spans
numerous industries from telecoms to utilities, railways, publishing and
health, it means that there is not very much going on in the country that
is not related at some level to government-regulated software
purchasing. If the new law is passed and government agencies are
required to use only free, open-source software, that means game, set
and match for Linux, while Microsoft can pretty much pack up and go

A new body will be set up in the baguette country to oversee
compliance with the open-source law. This body will mean business:
when the French set up a compliance committee they really mean it.
They will typically put serious big cheeses on such a committee, and
give them teeth, along with enough money to make a difference. It's a
way of working that comes naturally to the French – bureaucracy is
after all a French word, and they have always claimed mastery of the

All in all, the move promises quite an upheaval, and will lend a surprise
helping hand to the US Attorney-General, Janet Reno, in her fight
against Microsoft. I suspect that in her deepest dreams she had not
hoped for help from such an unlikely source, as the French do not in
general see the US government as anything even remotely worth
supporting. In this context, the sudden turnaround by the French has
raised a number of questions on both sides of the Atlantic. 

The main issue is the true motivation of the French government. OK, on
one hand what they are proposing is a pretty rational thing to do from a
systems point of view. Low-cost future-proofing, built-in compatibility,
delivery of documented source code, transparency and low support
costs are all very sound reasons why Linux should replace Microsoft's
operating systems. 


Kristian Köhntopp, NetUSE AG Siemenswall, D-24107 Kiel
Tel: +49 431 386 436 00, Fax: +49 431 386 435 99
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