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Charities: wake up and smell the lock-in

Ever heard of vendor lock-in? Here’s a definition from Wikipedia:

In economics, vendor lock-in, also known as proprietary lock-in or customer lock-in, makes a customer dependent on a vendor for products and services, unable to use another vendor without substantial switching costs.

One of the techniques used to achieve vendor lock-in is offering certain customers special deals, in this case hard-up charities. (In the chief scribe’s opinion what Microsoft does is akin to offering drugs to schoolkids. Ed.)

Bearing this in mind, Bristol Wireless has just received the email below detailing Microsoft’s latest licensing deal for charities.

We are delighted to announce that following detailed discussions, supported by the Cabinet Office, Microsoft has introduced new eligibility criteria for charities accessing discounted Charity (Academic) pricing. The principle criterion is that charity pricing will be offered to all registered charities, with a small number of exclusions for certain groups who are covered by other agreements.

Microsoft has been, and remains, a strong supporter of the voluntary sector through the discounts they offer, their donations programme and a wide range of community affairs activities to support community-based programmes and local projects enabling more people to have better access to technology.

Sir Stuart Etherington, our CEO said “We are delighted that Microsoft continues to endorse the valuable role that charities play in building and supporting our communities and that this new agreement will allow more charities to access the substantial discounts Microsoft offer through their Academic pricing agreement. NCVO has worked in partnership with Microsoft for over 15 years and we value the contribution they make to support our sector.”

In addition to the traditional licensing method for charities, Microsoft is now making subscription licenses available via the Public Sector PSA12 framework agreement, to any charity with 100+ seats and receiving over 50% of funding from government.

Many charities may also be starting to look at cloud solutions and Office 365. We look forward to supporting Microsoft in building the sectors understanding of, and access to, Office 365.

Any NCVO member that isn’t eligible to purchase Academic pricing under the new agreement will be able to continue to do so until the current NCVO Microsoft Select Agreement expires on 30th April 2013. Join now to benefit form the current Microsoft agreement.

Cheap deals to get people hooked: now what kind of trade does that sound like?

However, help is at hand: there are reliable open source alternatives to Microsoft and other proprietary products. For instance, most organisations couldn’t get by without an office productivity package consisting of word processor, spreadsheet, presentation and database software. Of course, Microsoft’s Office has the market cornered here, but before locking yourself into Redmond’s offering, why not try one (or both) of the main open source alternatives – LibreOffice and OpenOffice – which can both read and write MS Office formats, are completely free of charge and come with very liberal licensing (meaning you can share the software with anyone you like without risking a visit from the software police. Ed.)?

Readers may like to suggest further free and open source alternatives to proprietary products below.