Israel Shuts Door on Microsoft
By Peter Enav
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, December 30, 2003; 12:32 PM
JERUSALEM -- In an apparent showdown over price,
Israel's government has suspended purchases of Microsoft
productivity software and is encouraging the development
of an open source alternative.
A spokeswoman for the Finance Ministry, which oversees
government purchases, said Tuesday that government
agencies would use existing Microsoft Office products
for the time being rather than upgrade to newer
The Israeli government also will encourage the
development of lower-priced alternatives to Microsoft
software in an effort to help expand computer use by the
To that end, the Finance Ministry has cooperated with
Sun Microsystems and IBM in designing the Hebrew
language version of OpenOffice software, a freely
distributed open-source alternative to Microsoft Office.
"The move with Microsoft was a purely economic
decision," said the Finance Ministry spokeswoman,
speaking on condition of anonymity. "The Israeli
government will not be purchasing new products from
Microsoft, but will implement its contract to secure
"On a policy level, the government is committed to
expanding computer use. We want open source technology
to spread, so more people will be able to afford
computers," she said.
The spokeswoman said the government was unhappy with
Microsoft's refusal to sell individual programs from its
standard Office package, which includes an e-mail
client, spreadsheet and word-processing applications.
Not all departments require the entire suite of
programs, she said.
Microsoft representatives in Israel did not immediately
return phone calls seeking comment.
The Israeli move comes amid growing public sector
interest in open source, or non-proprietary, software
led by the Linux operating system.
Some federal agencies in France, China and Germany, as
well as the city government of Munich, have opted to use
Linux not just on servers but also on individual
workstations. Entire national governments, including
those in Britain, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, China and
Russia, are exploring open source alternatives to
Governments are a huge software market, accounting for
about 10 percent of global information technology
spending, according to research firm IDC.
Federal, state and local governments in the United
States spent $34 billion last year on huge systems to
track everything from tax collection to fishing
2003 The Associated Press