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Open Bid For Netherlands Government (Or how to save 150 million euros)

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As desktop Linux matures, it's becoming more practical for government and business use. Government are looking to Linux to save money and as a more secure platform with lower support headaches because it's immune to the plague of Microsoft Window viruses, spyware and trojan horses. Some are likely to move to "dual source" strategies, which require splitting the contract between at least two vendors so that they can avoid getting locked into one high-priced vendor and still maintain their bargaining position.

At the same time, Microsoft knows these are hugely lucrative deals and is trying to secretly push through multi-year deals to lock these governments in
behind the scenes. Below is one such saga playing out in the Netherlands. Microsoft tried to push through a $156 million, 5-year contract. But their plan was blown when the secret bid leaked out. Linspire submitted a preliminary bid, which was about $6 million - or a $150 million dollar savings from the Microsoft bid. The following is an open letter to the Prime-Minister of the Netherlands showing what Linux has to offer.

Minister-president Balkenende
Ministerie van Algemene Zaken
Postbus 20001
2500 EA Den Haag
fax 070-3564683

Dear Prime-Minister Balkenende,

It was recently brought to my attention that a bid has been circulating for software for 260,000 desktops for the Dutch government. I wanted to express Linspire's eagerness to provide a complete and in-depth proposal for the software required for these machines. I believe we have the ability to save you a substantial amount of money yet deliver high-quality products and services.

First, here is some background on Linspire: We are a software company focusing on providing full-featured and easy-to-use Linux software for desktop and laptop computers. We are based in the United States where we have seen solid success. Just this week, we launched a laptop series with the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, starting at just 375 euros. We also sell outside the United States.

We have been selling our product in the Netherlands for nearly two years via well-known distributors like Mensys BV. If you look at our global user map at you will see a strong cluster of users from Netherlands, which is a testimony to the popularity of our software in your country. In fact, the first book ever on Linspire was published in Dutch, which illustrates the interest in our products. As CEO of Linspire, I have personally visited the Netherlands to better understand that market, and I am personally committed to this region.

As I understand it, there is an open-bid process for a 260,000 desktop deployment over a 5-year period. First, let me commend you for an open bidding process. Even if you don't select Linspire, competition will help you secure the best possible value with your tax dollars. Second, let me commend you for considering open source/Linux options. These technologies have greatly advanced over the last few years and many people are attracted to Linux's security, affordability and stability, and Linspire has worked very hard to also make Linux extremely easy-to-use.

I was not able to secure the precise requirements of the proposal, but I can provide you with a rough estimate that may be valuable for broad comparison purposes. For a 260,000 seat deployment we would charge approximately 4.55 euros per year per machine over the 5 year period. This would provide you with complete operating system licenses with updates, essential business software such as an office suite, complete access to our 1,900-title software library for every computer, and customization to your specific needs on-site.

The total cost of our proposal would be 5,915,000 euros. My sources have revealed that Microsoft has submitted a formal proposal of 156,000,000 euros -- an estimate of 150,000,000 euros more than Linspire's proposal. I want to stress that even with the dramatic cost difference, you will receive a comparable product and we believe better service from Linspire. Let me explain why. First, because we are Linux-based, we are able to produce a high-quality product at a substantially lower cost and are able to pass those savings to you. Second, this would be a significant contract for our company, which would have the attention of our entire organization from myself on down. Because it is based on Linux, the Linspire operating system is free from the normal security threats found on most PCs, including viruses, hackers, and spies. Finally, the open source nature of our product would ensure that you would not be locked into our product line or support only from our company. You would be guaranteed the ability to audit the code yourself or engage a wide array of companies familiar with Linux to assist with your computing needs.

There are several corporations that are in the process of deploying Linspire that we would be able to provide as references. In addition, we can provide names of satisfied users, businesses and home users who are using Linspire on a daily basis in the Netherlands.

I would like to follow up this very informal proposal with an official proposal. I look forward to examining closer the needs of Dutch govern to tailor a proposal that is comprehensive and cost-effective.


Michael Robertson
CEO, Linspire

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