Neither Open nor Close

Should the government get into the job of deciding which OS
their departments should use? Yes and no.

This is a big question facing nodal IT policy framing agencies
for respective state governments in India as well as vendors and users. While
various stakeholders have responded differently on this, depending on how they
are affected, my take on this is a little philosophical. On one hand, I agree
that finally it should be the users choice and he or she should not be
saddled with unwanted solutions. On the other hand, I feel that new initiatives
today need patrons and support, especially during take off. And, governments can
and must play the patrons role once in a while.

The users may be the best decision makers on what hardware and
software to use, but the fact is that technology decisions are often taken on
factors other than just product qualities and price. There are several soft
factors that come into playcomfort level and usage habits, relationships with
suppliers, outstation and overseas training opportunities, conference
invitations, and so on. Obviously, small and upcoming players will not be able
to offer much of these. And, therefore, do not stand a chance, unless there is
someone who is ready to push their case.

should not issue dictats, but ensure that Linux and Windows are encouraged
to come closer

If we talk specifically about Windows and Linux, then there are
surely advantages as well as disadvantages with both. I need not delve on them,
but I know so many users who vouch for either. I am sure, if they are forced to
use what they do not like, they will definitely not be very happy users. And,
that is not a great thing to happen in a democracy.

On the other hand, in many areas including the government, which
will be a huge user of IT in the years to come, there will be a need for some
sort of uniformity. Thus, Linux and Windows will need to co-exist. For instance,
a land record database in Andhra Pradesh will need to talk to the land record
database in Kerela, or the motor vehicle registration database in Delhi will
need to be compatible with the similar database in Bangalore. This will just not
happen if Linux and Windows keep fighting with each other.

Indian users, both in the government and private enterprises,
can actually force Linux and Windows to work closely, so that both the great OS
can be used in India, and be leveraged properly. And, users also have more
freedom and flexibility. The end result, I can guarantee, will be more
innovative applications, and higher adoption of IT. That is what everybody
aspires for, including Microsoft and Red Hat.

I am sure this is a global challenge, and will be welcomed
everywhere in the world. The Governments, perhaps one the biggest potential
markets, can form a global alliance to persuade and force Windows and Linux to
work together. I am sure better sense will prevail.

The author is Group Editor of Dataquest.

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