There is nothing wrong with the Dutch software market. At least according to the Dutch Cartel Office
It was expected by some. For the third year in a row the Dutch Cartel Office (NMa) decided there were no reasons to look into the Dutch software market, despite requests made by people in the field of commerce and education and by the Dutch parliament.
In a letter send to me (and perhaps the other writers as well, link to Dutch text), the NMa explains that there is no evidence to suggest an abuse of the dominant market position by Microsoft in such a way that it prohibits other operating systems and software to compete. Since the consumer hardly requests anything else than a computer with Windows, it is no problem for the NMa if that means that vendors pre-install Windows.
Strange enough it has been requested by the Dutch parliament that an investigation into this should take place. The Dutch government recently commenced a new policy that makes the use of open standards by central government organizations compulsory by April 2008 (link to English translation). The current viewpoint of the NMa makes it doubtful if that request by parliament will be met.
The open letter send by OpenSourceLearning and others, however, requested the NMa to take a closer look into the relationship between educational institutions and commercial software vendors in the Netherlands. It is highly disappointing that the NMa not even addresses the issue or explains why it will not investigate the matter. It does state that parts of the software market are international by nature and should therefore be handled by for instance the EU.
This argument is flawed when considering education. The present situation is such that educational institutions are forced to buy their software via a few clearing houses that have contract with a small group of software vendors, who only deliver proprietary software. The result is that almost ICT education that takes place on the primary, secondary and tertiary levels is Windows-only. To make things worse: this is also true for training programs for ICT professionals. Linux or Unix, together making up for the most of the ICT backbone in organizations, are hardly mentioned in the curricula.
The social and economic implications of this situation are clear. Companies and organizations will find it difficult to find skilled professionals for the current ICT infrastructure and are forced to either train their own staff or switch to Windows-only environment. The government will find it more and more difficult to push it’s plans for open source and open standards forward.
It is clear that the NMa decided to turn a blind eye to the Dutch software market and the huge market distortions that are seen. This doesn’t mean that all is lost. The Dutch Ministry of Economic affairs will sit down with the Ministry of Education and see how the new policy can be implemented in and supported by educational institutions. It’s up to us to keep up the pressure and compile a long list of ‘worst practices’.