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  1. Technology
February 22, 1993


By CBR Staff Writer

Although the Hungarian government committed itself to open systems only six months ago, its strategy is already in disarray. Following advice from the European Commission and representatives from individual member states, the government decided in August 1992 that it would join the X/Open Co Ltds User Council and base its procurement policy on X Portability Guide 3-branded products. X/Open jubilantly announced The government of Hungary has become the first European administration to commit to an open systems strategy, while president and chief executive Geoff Morris hailed it as a far-sighted decision to develop the foundations of an information technology infrastructure on a thoroughly sound open basis. The initial euphoria has now subsided, and there is obvious disappointment among those vendors that stood to gain from the policy. ICL Plc country manager Ian Leach said, At the time we applauded the decision, but we are yet to see much evidence of major compliance. If they have got the conviction to carry through with the policy, he added, they will reap the benefits. Even Janos Keresztosi, public sector accounts manager for Digital Equipment Corp, the government’s largest supplier, stated, I don’t know what the idea of the Hungarian government is. There are a lot of government departments and each has its own ideas on Unix and open systems standards. Robert Peller, deputy managing director of DEC’s key partner in the country, Szamalk, even denied knowledge of the XPG3 procurement decision. Hungary was a major producer of the Eastern Bloc’s copies of the DEC VAX, and DEC has been going around persuading as many users as it can to switch their counterfeit machines for the Real Thing. DEC said that it had VAX machines installed in the tax and customs offices as well as the foreign ministry, but that Ultrix boxes are confined to the education and health ministries. No Alpha-ready systems have yet been shipped into the country. Although it has lost several major contracts to Hewlett-Packard Co and Data General Corp, IBM Corp is also still mainly selling AS/400s into the public sector. According to the company’s Peter Gogge, our main revenues next year will come from the mid-range – with both the AS/400 and RS/600. IBM’s implicit argument is that because it has committed to bringing X/Open Portability Guide 3-compliance to the AS/400, then this is akin to XPG3-conformance. The situation has resulted in major confusion among vendors about which machines can be offered in tendering for contracts. But the general consensus is that the government is not so much back-tracking on its open systems strategy as still trying to understand the issues involved in the open versus proprietary debate.

XPG3 procurement policy

A spokesman from the government section of a large US information technology company said, When they asked DEC if they would provide open systems, DEC said yes. So, they continued to buy from DEC as before. They are still wearing children’s shoes and decisions are made very fast. They believe XPG3 is good, and we saw the commitment to it. But we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. While the government may not have understood what an XPG3 procurement policy actually meant, given its proprietary systems-based past, some blame can probably be laid at the feet of X/Open too, which may well have misunderstood the nature of the government’s decision-making process. Research and development director at Data General’s Hungarian partner, Microsystem, Andras Csicseri is not surprised at the way things turned out, It’s fairly typical that decisions like that are taken and then fought over. But it’s still important – it’s a signal. What the West would consider a binding policy agreement, he added, is in Hungary often simply a means of communicating latest government thinking to the outer reaches of bureaucracy. It is going to take a lot more than whistle-stop tours from European Community advisors to put in place all the elements the Hungarian government requires to establish a comprehensive and co-ordinated a

pproach to procuring information technology – what it needs is knowledge that it can use to develop its own policy framework.

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