Netproject,, the consultancy whose open source desktop pilot triggered large discounts from Microsoft for Newham Borough Council has formed an "Incubator Club" for organisations considering an open source switch. The membership of the club is being kept confidential, says Netproject's Eddie Bleadsale, because "we don't want the proprietary vendors to approach members before they have had time to fully evaluate open source." This we deduce as a reference to one proprietary vendor in particular, but not (hello Sun, hello IBM) exclusively to that one vendor.
Newham itself concedes that it was able to negotiate with some strength because of the pilot, and its willingness to implement it, while Netproject says that: "Reacting to to Netproject's credible and practical approach, Microsoft completely changed their attitude towards Newham. They have made many concessions on licensing costs and support. Newham will benefit significantly from these Microsoft concessions but will keep their options open by continuing to evaluate the use of open source through the Netproject demonstrator."
"Whenever Netproject demonstrates an open source solution to a microsoft customer," says Bleasdale, "they suddenly find Microsoft's approach much more amenable." He cites both Newham and West Yorkshire Police as examples of bodies which, after deploying pilots, where "made offers they could not refuse" by Microsoft.
Bleasdale also tells The Register that during the summit Bill Gates keynoted on Monday he asked Patrica Hewitt to "give her opinions about an organisation that currently is an effective monopoly using its resources to stop technology innovation." She said she'd get back to him, and we look forward to that.
At the moment it's probably impossible for open source to avoid being used as a bargaining chip by organisations seeking bigger discounts from Microsoft, and as it's currently the challenger, all other things being equal (or at least appearing equal), organisations will tend to stick with the devil they know rather than making the leap into the unknown. Assuming the existence of a process that goes pilot, counter attack, discount, Windows upgrade, then it seems rational to presume that the size of discount is in proportion to the maturity of the pilot. That is, the earlier the SWAT team gets to hear about it react, the less you know about open source, the less sure you are about switching, and the less they need to offer you. And of course the more sure you are, the more likely you are to actually do it as opposed to taking the money and running.
Netproject is of course seeking something greater than a reasonable business as a Microsoft discount machine, and really wants you to switch. But either way, the secret society aspect of the Incubator Club makes sense. Wonder what they do to stool pigeons, though? ®