Microsoft threatened to move its existing facilities out of the UK should its Parliament’s proposal to promote open source standards for software used by government personnel come to pass. Last year, the Conservative Party revealed plans to ditch Microsoft Office and its associated .doc and .docx formats in favour of the .odf Open Document Format in an effort to save money.
The move was announced by the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, who said, “The software we use in government is still supplied by just a few large companies. A tiny oligopoly dominates the marketplace. I want to see a greater range of software used, so civil servants have access to the information they need and can get their work done without having to buy a particular brand of software.”
But reports have emerged that Microsoft didn’t react well to the proposal to move away from its proprietary software, threatening to move its research facilities out of the UK if the plans were implemented.
Steve Hilton, the Prime Minister’s former Director of Strategy, disclosed that soon after the proposal, Microsoft executives began lobbying MPs to vote against the move, lest they lose the company as a resident in their country.
“Microsoft phoned Conservative MPs with Microsoft R&D facilities in their constituencies and said we will close them down in your constituencies if this goes through,” Hilton revealed. “We just resisted. You have to be brave.”
When the plan was announced, Microsoft even published a blog entry attempting to scare UK businesses into standing against open source standards.
“These decisions will likely impact you, either as a citizen of the UK, a UK business or a company doing or wanting to do business with government,” Microsoft wrote. “This move has the potential to impact businesses selling to government, who may be forced to comply.”
“It also sets a worrying precedent because government is, in effect, refusing to support another internationally recognised open standard and may do so for other similar popular standards in the future, potentially impacting anyone who wishes to sell to government.”
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