The Continuing Scandal of Vendor Lock-in


As I've noted many times, one of the big benefits of deploying open source is freedom from lock-in: using open formats that anyone can implement means that it is relatively easy to change supplier. That's not the case with Microsoft's code and formats, as the following sad saga underlines:

Vendor lock-in is forcing two municipalities in the Netherlands to stick to using proprietary office applications and other desktop software. The city of Amsterdam is saying it's move to open source on the desktop cannot be realised any time soon. The city of Heerenveen has canned its migration to OpenOffice.

The city of Amsterdam is working to integrate the IT systems of its fourteen city districts and 28 service departments. The city is finding it impossible to combine its collection of fifteen thousand software applications with a move to a vendor independent IT architecture.

The city of Heerenveen is the second municipality that can be taken off the list of public administrations moving to vendor independence. Its plans to migrate to the open source suite of office applications OpenOffice are scrapped. In a statement, the city explains it finds it impossible to integrate OpenOffice with other critical applications.

One serious effect of lock-in, then, is to block even gradual moves to vendor-independent architectures that would reduce that lock-in. In other words, it's pretty much a one-way street once an outfit takes the proprietary path.

This is a strong argument for mandating open source/open standards solutions in the public sector: depending on “level playing fields” as Microsoft demands so vociferously is actually surrendering to the status quo because of the huge lock-in problem. The only way to get true equality of opportunity is to force people to move to open standards, and *then* let the market operate freely.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or

"Recommended For You"

German government should open source its software, committee advises Amsterdam to test open source