[linux-elitists] Cheeseheads aren't 'Softies: UWisc Mad exited MSFT license June 31, 2003

Bob Plankers plankers@doit.wisc.edu
Wed Nov 5 00:54:38 PST 2003

Yeah, the entire state of Wisconsin might consume 2/3 of the world's
yearly production of brandy, but we do know good from bad sometimes. :-)

I was not directly involved in the contract negotiations (one degree of
separation), and it was six months ago, but it was price increases and
some politics that ended the deal. The UW System had a contract for two
years which provided MS Office, Windows, and various other software to
campus very inexpensively ($20 for Office, etc.). At the time the
alternatives were not what they are today. It was a good deal, even for
people who dislike MS, and hard to pass up. There was a lot of criticism
that we were selling out: "Oh, they'll get you on the hook, and then
you're stuck." Yup -- all companies try that, though. I also seem to
recall that there was some animosity between MS and some key people here
during the negotiation process. While we're a state institution and cannot
make completely arbitrary decisions as a corporation could, a company
probably should not make their customers start thinking of alternatives,
especially during negotiations.

I am not familiar with the deal that the rest of the UW System achieved.
Madison departments can still get Microsoft products under their Select
licensing programs, just at a higher cost to us ($590 or so for Windows
Server 2003 and three years of software assurance/support). This is closer
to the rest of our OSes -- for example, we've begun to use Red Hat
Enterprise Linux, rather than the free Red Hat Linux/Fedora. With the
pricing closer to each other people stop being blinded by "free" and ask
good questions about security, reliability, and cost of their servers over
time. Ironically, AIX and Solaris are free for our use (gotta have the
special hardware, of course)[1]. And Apple Mac OS X use is growing, too
(especially with Panther and Samba 3).

The StarOffice software is a free download for students, faculty, and
staff, and $18 if you want a media set. The UW has always done its own
media duplication as part of these contracts, so the $18 goes for a manual
and the staff time and materials to package it. Since August 6th, 2003 it
appears that about 1100 copies of StarOffice have been downloaded. Not
bad, though I cannot get more demographic information than that (we have
around 40000 students and 20000 staff). We received StarOffice 7 media two
days ago, so that will go up soon, and from the looks of it it'll cut into
academic sales of Acrobat, too (mmm, saving PDFs).

Students can still purchase Microsoft products at low rates, just not as
low as before. $81 for Office XP Pro is not bad at all (but not free).

I don't know if you've mailed anybody to ask about this, but I can relay
questions to my product management coworkers if you folks have some.


[1] Tangent: IBM has announced their plans to release PPC 970-based
pSeries machines, to run Linux and AIX. I wonder if, at that time, it will
be possible to boot an Apple G5 into AIX... :-) A long time ago we could
boot Mac OS 7.6 on CHRP RS/6000s (no keyboard or mouse, though).

On Wed, 29 Oct 2003, Karsten M. Self wrote:

> The story broke May 13, but apparently didn't get much coverage.
> University of Wisconsin, Madison:
>     elected to not participate in the UW-System site license renewal for
>     Microsoft products. That license expired on July 31, 2003 for
>     UW-Madison. UW-Madison departments own licenses for the versions
>     current as of July 31, 2003 for the Microsoft desktop products
>     included in the original contract. They can continue to use those
>     licenses indefinitely on department-owned machines.
> Replacement for MS Office is Sun's StarOffice, under Sun's free
> educational license.
> More information:
>    http://wiscweb5.wisc.edu/wisc/UW_Madison/ms_contract_issues/home.html
> Might be interesting to see a follow-up / progress report, I'm
> contacting 'em for same.
> Peace.
> --
> Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
>  What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
>     I'm no one to be trifled with. That is all you ever need know.
>     - Princess Bride

Bob Plankers                                    plankers@doit.wisc.edu
University of Wisconsin - Madison                      +1.608.262.7783
Division of Information Technology             http://bob.plankers.com

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