Europe Faces Battle Over Open Source Vs. Proprietary Software

A recent survey of Europeans found overwhelming support for open source software. Meanwhile, a new software industry alliance looks to represent vendors' interests.

W. David Gardner, Contributor

October 20, 2005

2 Min Read

With a study noting the gains of open-source software over proprietary Microsoft software reverberating throughout Europe this week, a new software industry alliance pledging cooperation among its members was launched Thursday.

The European Software Association (ESA) was unveiled in Brussels with a goal of speaking as a common voice for a fragmented industry. It has 26 members including Microsoft.

Although the ESA had its origins in meetings with Microsoft's Bill Gates, it maintains that it is not a surrogate for the software colossus.

Earlier in the week a survey conducted by researchers at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands was presented at the O'Reilly Open-Source Convention in Amsterdam. The survey of 955 respondents in various European countries revealed that 70 percent favor increasing the use of open-source software.

According to researchers, nearly 30 percent of the respondents who said they were not using open-source software were indeed using it, an indication that open-source software has infiltrated many IT installations without administrators realizing it.

In another Maastricht University finding, 79 computers with open-source software were serviced by a single IT administrator versus 66 computers for proprietary software, leading the researchers to suggest that open-source software requires fewer administrators than proprietary software.

"In open-source software (OSS), Europe is at the forefront," said Florian Mueller, a European software developer and open-source software advocate. "There are a variety of reasons. In the public sector, center-left governments have typically been more OSS-friendly than right-wing ones.

"Also, there are economic studies which show that Europe has a trade deficit in software versus the U.S. in the tens of billions of dollars per year, so there is obviously some hope over here to become a little more independent from a few large and mostly American vendors."

In addition to Microsoft, the ESA membership includes Business Objects SA, Dassault Systemes, LogicaCMG PLC, SAP AG, as well as several small and medium-sized firms. At a press conference launching the ESA, its chairman, Jeremy Roche, said the group's purpose is to provide "a voice for the European software industry, which we have never been able to achieve because we are so fragmented as an industry." Roche is CEO of software financial services firm Coda PLC.

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