OK, Bob Evans doesn't like Ralph Nader. And I didn't care much for his commentary, either. I was the co-author of the letter to the Office of Management and Budget on procurement policy. We asked that federal purchases address concerns over both security and monopolistic practices. The Department of Defense is already looking at the security issues in terms of the server market, comparing open-source and NT alternatives, a point Mr. Evans did not mention in his diatribe.
Under FAR 6.202, the U.S. government can and often does exclude some vendors from some purchases for "establishing or maintaining alternative sources" for a product or service. There is no obvious reason why Microsoft should not be subject to provisions that apply in other cases where actual or potential monopolies create problems.
I was surprised to read Mr. Evans wonder "whether ... other companies have products that, in place of Microsoft's, would do what the federal government needs to get done." Does Mr. Evans truly believe people buy new copies of Microsoft Word for the features? As an editor of a magazine that reviews software, he should realize that Microsoft's main selling point is the lack of compatibility, not only with competitor's products, but even with older versions of Microsoft's own software. Mr. Evans could have discussed the specifics of our letter, such as our request that firms be required to disclose information on file formats for word-processing software to enhance competition and reduce federal government data lock-in to a single vendor.
Mr. Evans slams Mr. Nader as if the Microsoft issue is a passing interest. We have been following the Microsoft antitrust issues for years, having lobbied the Department of Justice to bring the browser case in 1997 and sponsored both the first conference on Microsoft and antitrust in 1997 and the first conference on antitrust remedies in 1999 (http://www.appraising-microsoft.org). We have written and filed a stream of substantive comments on the antitrust proceeding, such as our Jan. 28, 2002, filing in the review of the proposed settlement (http://www.cptech.org/ms/nader-doj01282002.html).
We have also been raising the federal procurement issue since 1997. Mr. Evans should also be aware that the procurement issues have received considerable attention from governments outside the United States. More information about this is available here: http://www.cptech.org/ecom/gp.html.
James Love Director, Consumer Project on Technology
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