Linux wins Nigerian school desktops back from Microsoft

It looks like the open letter to Steve Ballmer from Mandriva may have had an impact. From the article:

Mandriva had closed a deal in mid-August to provide a customised Linux operating system and support for 17,000 Intel Classmate PCs intended for Nigerian schools, but found out last week that the company deploying the computers for the government, Technology Support Center (TSC), planned to wipe the computers’ disks and install Windows XP instead.

Now, however, a government agency funding 11,000 of the PCs has overruled the supplier. Nigeria’s Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) wants to keep Mandriva Linux on the Classmate PCs, said an official who identified himself as the programme manager for USPF’s Classmate PCs project.

“We are sticking with that platform,” said the official, who would not give his name.

Mba-Uzoukwu wrote that Microsoft is still negotiating an agreement that would give TSC US$400,000 (£190,323) for marketing activities around the Classmate PCs when those computers are converted to Windows.

“Microsoft is able to offer a comprehensive education solution – including software, training and support – on the 17,000 Classmate PCs for 200 schools across Nigeria,” the statement said.

After public statements from Mandriva officials implied the marketing deal is legally questionable, Microsoft said last week that it complies with international law and the law of the countries in which it operates.

It’s not clear how much TSC would pay for each Windows XP licence. Efforts to reach senior managers at TSC, which is a subsidiary of Alteq.ict, an IT consulting business in Nigeria, were unsuccessful.

However, details on Mandriva’s deal with TSC have emerged. Mandriva is providing a customised OS for Nigeria for under $10 (£4.7) per licence, including support, according to its local partner.

It’s clear that Microsoft is willing to go to pretty great lengths to ensure that it’s able to put some stakes down in the growing third world economies. I’m not a lawyer, so don’t have any insight into the legality of this $400,000 “marketing” deal, but it seems that for now the machines are going to be delivered with Mandriva and stay with Mandriva. I have a feeling we haven’t heard the end of this story though.

–jeremy

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