European public administrations have chained themselves to Microsoft’s toolbox of word documents, excel sheets, powerpoint presentations and outlook. It costs billions. The lock-in is not the fault of Microsoft, but of the public administrations that have allowed themselves to be locked in, says Björn Lundell. He is a professor of computer science at Högskolan i Skövde, Sweden. Last year he submitted a report on lock-in to the Swedish Competition Authority.
Anyone can understand that it’s not the world’s greatest starting point for negotiations with a car dealer to have to buy the same car as last time, says Lundell. – But when they buy IT systems, many subscribe to contracts for a particular product.
Customers don’t feel they have real choices. IT Manager Dagfinn Grønvik in Møre og Romsdal
County says this: ”We get the best price Microsoft wants to give us”.
Hardly anyone outside the corporation knows how much European public administrations spend on Microsoft licenses and other services from the company. Microsoft does not tell. Not to journalists.
But neither to Difi, the Directorate for Administration and ICT, says Sverre Svensen. He was acting director of the national public procurement center of Difi until February. The center aims at more efficient public purchases through framework agreements. With Microsoft, too, according to Svensen, who believes that Norway’s potential for savings in IT procurement is “insane”. “Norway is one of the few countries in Europe that has no framework contracts. Decentralized purchases from giants mean that the giant controls the customer”, he believes.
Svensen says he asked Microsoft to clarify what types of licenses they sell to the public administrations, what the average price is and what volume the PAs buy. ”The process took several months. But we didn’t proceed much beyond nice conversations”, says Svensen.
Norwegian authorities don’t know. But Svensen believes that Norwegian public administrations pay around one billion kroner for Microsoft licenses annually.