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Open Source's Battle In Africa 172

eldavojohn writes "The BBC has more details about something we last discussed in 2008 — the showdown of open source versus proprietary software in Africa. When discussing the issue of cost, the piece quotes Microsoft's chairman on the scene, Dr. Cheikh Modibo Diarra, who alludes that open source continually costs you money by saying 'You buy Microsoft software, and you buy it once and for all, the cost that we tell you is the total cost for ownership.' On the other end of the story is Ken Banks from who has spent 15 years developing open source applications in Africa. His logic is that 'Today we're seeing growing open-source programmer, developer communities in South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and other African countries. Clearly, if you have this informal programming sector coming up, access to source code is almost critical if they are going to be able to take advantage of these new tools that are emerging.' Well, the battle rages on, hopefully the emerging African developers and users pick the tool(s) that suit their needs the best."
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Open Source's Battle In Africa

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  • You buy it once? (Score:5, Informative)

    by bryan1945 ( 301828 ) on Friday May 15, 2009 @03:40PM (#27971519) Journal

    "'You buy Microsoft software, and you buy it once and for all, the cost that we tell you is the total cost for ownership.' "

    Yeah, like phasing out support for older OS's. And putting in new formats for the next Office iteration. I had to buy the new Office for home because those who upgraded never remember to downgrade. Not to mention that if you don't have a service contract you pay $X (I forget the number) per service call. I'm sure there are more instances of how "buy once, this is TCO" is wrong, but I'm not up to date on MS's current procedures.

    What's the cost of OSS? Learning curve? Like Office 2007 didn't cause most people fits when it was released? I don't use Linux, so I'm no fanboy, but that statement was just ridiculous.

    (Oh, and I graduate with my MIS degree tonight! Sorry, just happy.)

  • Deceptive story (Score:2, Informative)

    by amilo100 ( 1345883 ) on Friday May 15, 2009 @03:49PM (#27971629)
    Hmmm... The article is a bit misleading.

    In Africa, Microsoft faces strong competition from open-source software in particular the Linux operating system. Many use that and run run free counterparts to the Microsoft Office suite.

    This is completely deceptive. The only people I know who runs Linux are students, programmers or web hosts. Run of the mill people do not use Linux at all. OpenOffice on Windows is used a little bit more often â" usually by people who cannot get a pirated version of MS Office.

    There really is not incentive to use non-MS products. MS gives away all its software to university students and windows for the classrooms.

    Microsoft's biggest competitor is pirated Microsoft software.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 15, 2009 @04:00PM (#27971775)

    'You buy Microsoft software, and you buy it once and for all, the cost that we tell you is the total cost for ownership.'

    This just proves he's been listening to Microsoft too long. He's using Microsoft's favorite buzzword without even thinking whether his statement makes sense. The purchase price is not the total cost of ownership. Not even Microsoft is claiming that.

    Even they will admit that TCO includes training and support. Microsoft's argument is that there are a lot more Microsoft-trained personnel than Linux-trained, so you don't have to train them yourself, or pay them as much because there are plenty of others with the same skill set willing to take their place. And technical support from Microsoft is free. But you still need to pay administrators or a whole IT dept, whether you buy Microsoft or Linux.

    Only someone with a religious devotion to the Microsoft idealogy would claim that TCO only includes the purchase price.

    To be fair, anyone who claims that Linux has no associated costs is just as much a zealot on the other side.

    As for "you buy it once and for all," that's untrue. You buy it now, you buy it again when you want to put it on another computer, and then you buy it all over again, for all of those computers, when Microsoft tells you to upgrade. If you're big enough, you get a bulk discount. Depending upon how long it is between upgrade cycles, buying Microsoft still might be the cheaper option, but it's disingenuous to claim that you only have to buy it once.

    Actually, if your point is that you only need to pay for it once, Linux still comes out ahead because you get it free, once and for all.

    I haven't done any studies so I have no idea whether Microsoft or Linux has a higher TCO. But Dr. Diarra's statement is blatantly untrue.

  • Ownership? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Amigan ( 25469 ) on Friday May 15, 2009 @04:03PM (#27971809) Homepage
    The last time I checked an M$ Eula, you don't actually own any code you pay for. you are actually paying a use license. M$ retains ownership rights to the software.
  • by The Angry Mick ( 632931 ) on Friday May 15, 2009 @04:08PM (#27971877) Homepage

    You buy Microsoft software, and you buy it once and for all, the cost that we tell you is the total cost for ownership.'

    Whenever I hear someone in the U.S. say that, it's usually quickly followed by a Microsoft or BSA representative calling them to clarify that the term "ownership" means "we still own it, we're just giving you a license to use it, and if you want more, you will pay us more."

    If this guy genuinely believes Microsoft products are a "buy once, own forever" proposition, I think he's in for a bit of a shock once the install base reaches critical mass.

  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Friday May 15, 2009 @04:33PM (#27972219) Journal

    This just proves he's been listening to Microsoft too long. He's using Microsoft's favorite buzzword without even thinking whether his statement makes sense. The purchase price is not the total cost of ownership. Not even Microsoft is claiming that.

    Dude, please read TFA/S a little more closely.

    Microsoft is claiming that. The person who said those words? Microsoft. A very high-ranking official in Microsoft's African operations.

    He hasn't spent too long listening to Microsoft... he's spent too long being Microsoft.

  • Contact Canonical (Score:5, Informative)

    by tjwhaynes ( 114792 ) on Friday May 15, 2009 @05:07PM (#27972635)

    The big advantage of Microsoft is that you can buy it on a disk.

    The big advantage of Ubuntu is that Canonical will send you, free of charge, an entire Operating System [], complete with application stacks, on a DVD if you ask.

    Toby Haynes

  • Re:Contact Canonical (Score:3, Informative)

    by dvice_null ( 981029 ) on Friday May 15, 2009 @05:59PM (#27973179)

    > I can't seem to find a package list of what, exactly, comes on those disks

    Mirrors where the disk can be downloaded, should usually contain .list file where you can see this information. E.g.: []

    > 6-10 weeks delivery time? The price is right, but if you need something now

    You could perhaps download CD or DVD image and burn it yourself for those who need it? You don't have to order it.

  • by WML MUNSON ( 895262 ) on Friday May 15, 2009 @07:17PM (#27973941)


    I'm a manager at a /major/ East-African health-care organization based in Uganda.

    Years ago (before I arrived) someone had a highly customized Microsoft Navision system put in for our HMS/ERP system.

    If we want to modify anything more in-depth than what color a button is we have to call up a Microsoft Licensed Consultant who has a key-file on a USB stick that allows them access to the inner-workings of the system -- and pay them hourly.

    This system is the beating fucking heart of our organization and we can't even make something a required field or modify the validation of an entry without calling these circus clowns up.

    The default license allows access by 36 simultaneous users. Guess how much Microsoft Nairobi forces us to pay per-user when we want to add more? try EIGHT HUNDRED FUCKING DOLLARS PER SEAT -- AFTER DISCOUNT.

    Want to store more information than we currently do? BUY MORE DATABASE TABLES.

    Dr. Cheikh Modibo Diarra either has no idea what he's talking about or is an outright fucking liar, because Microsoft has nothing anywhere near a business model that works for Africa.

    We can't wait to get off their system.

  • Re:Deceptive story (Score:2, Informative)

    by amilo100 ( 1345883 ) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @08:48AM (#27978183)
    A lot of people here in Zimbabwe are sick of windows.

    Honest question: do the universities still function in Zimbabwe? I see a lot of economic refugees from Zimbabwe (some even with British teaching degrees).

    Oh, and no student I know has ever seen a microsoft giveaway.

    Your university does not manage it right. It is the university's responsibility to distribute the free Microsoft software. Some universities do not tell their students about it or manage it badly.

    We don't have bandwidth for updates and antivirus programs.

    One of my problems is downloading a linux distro - since it is usually more than 3 cds. Windows is fairly small and available as a pirated version.

    But the sysadmin wants to switch now.

    It is quite problematic for a university lab to âoeswitchâ to linux since a lot of software used in other courses (electronic engineering, mechanical engineering) are Windows only. A better solution is to have a dual boot system so that the user's can choose.
  • Re:Sure! (Score:3, Informative)

    by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @03:32PM (#27980893)

    Microsoft has a program for ISVs that grants you developer/testing licenses for almost everything they make for up to 5 developers, for like $300/year.

    You get full access to everything on MSDN and downloads for just about everything but special programs, generally before the public does. 5 unique accounts are allowed under the program so your developers that work with MS software can test whatever they need. As long as its used in testing and not for production services, you're legal for any of those 5 developers.

    I realize that it does cost $300/year, but considering thats less than the cost of a cheap PC you might use as a test machine, I hardly think that the software costs are really your limiting factor.

    Your dependency on apt-get to do everything has made you lazy.

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato