Microsoft charity crackdown spurs boycott

Charities prep for open source

Open doors

Some had seen the writing on the wall more than a year ago. Anglican Church CIO George Lymbers began phasing in open source across his organisation more than a year ago and has slashed more than $250,000 in software costs in combination with a collective bargining agreement.

"Charities need to always save money, and it doesn't make sense to run more expensive kit when you can run a low cost alternative," Lymbers said.

IBM, Red Hat and Lotus Notes run alongside Microsoft products in what Lymbers now describes as a good balance that keeps Windows power users happy and cuts unnecessary spend on commercial software where open source can be used.

All IT purchasing for the organisation's schools, parishes, and retirement villages among others is done centrally under AngliConnect, which has led to a 50 percent reduction in the purchase cost of Microsoft software and a 50 percent bonus in service agreements.

Lymbers said Microsoft is struggling to understand the difference between how American and Australian not-for-profits contribute to charity.

"The non-profit sector outside of government is the largest contributor of charity in the county, whereas in America large companies give mega-millions to charities. They are getting screwed here in Australia by being tarred with the American brush," he said.

"It couldn't have come at a worse time - during the credit crunch where charities are going to need support more unemployed. It is going to drive users away in droves into the arms of IBM and the like, and the anger will mount."

Lymbers advises organisations moving to open source to do a staged roll out, running dual boot systems and slowly phasing out the commercial software base. He said organisations may find a break-even sweet spot between commercial software and open source, or may be compelled to run an entire open source architecture, and noted that training is becoming less of a pain for transitions.

Previous calls for collective bargining in the aged-care sector and with Microsoft have failed. Casting aside arguments of the whether Microsoft should have imposed the licence changes on not-for-profits, some admit parts of the industry may have "made hay while the sun shines" by recieving government grants and payments for services while using Microsoft discounts like Academic Open.

The aged care council's Young said even the smallest aged care facilities are at risk of exclusion because "almost all" operate some flavour of community-funded work that could gereate revenue streams.

The Microsoft spokesperson said the licence conditions are designed to assist smaller standalone facilities: "as there are organisations in this sector that form part of larger affiliates and, in many respects, act in a similar manner to commercial organisations, Charity Open has been designed to provide targeted assistance to smaller, standalone aged care facilities and hospices that have access to fewer resources. This is to underpin the sustainability of the program for a wider cross-section of the Australian charity sector."

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