What you see everyday…

by admin on June 19, 2006 02:28pm

I’ve been traveling in Brazil recently, one of my favorite countries, and meeting with various customers, developers, IT professionals, government officials and topping it off with a talk at Linux World Brazil in Sao Paulo.  On my flight over I was reading a translated version of TEMA magazine which discusses the Brazilian federal government’s IT spending.  An interesting statistic from a 2003 study by the Department of Logistics and Information Technology is that Microsoft is just barely on the ‘top spend’ list of commercial software providers to the Brazilian Federal Government.  In terms of money spent by the government on software, Microsoft comes in at number eight.  Many would believe or would guess that Microsoft is the ‘big gorilla’ in the Brazilian market, which is why the Linux/OSS versus Microsoft debate in Brazil always seems so dramatic in the press.  But, alas, we are number eight, in terms of money spent by the state. 

According to this study, the biggest software suppliers to the Brazilian federal government (in Brazilian Reals):

  1. Net Control (R$15.4 million)
  2. IBM (R$10.6 million)
  3. Oracle (R$5.7 million)
  4. Borland (R$4.2 million)
  5. Funcate (R$3.8 million)
  6. Serpro (R$3.7 million)
  7. Autotrac (R$3.3 million)

Of course, this is just software costs you can imagine what that IBM number looks like if you add in services and hardware.

The reason, I believe, for the misperception that Microsoft is the single ‘foreign’ vendor is because most people ‘see’ Microsoft everyday on their desktops.  So Microsoft becomes a singular metaphor (or poster child) for commercial software.  The misperception even carries to the academic world, such as Benkler’s Wealth of Networks from Yale Univ. Press, where he discusses the role of free software, giving governments, “freedom from reliance on a single foreign source (read, Microsoft)” – page 333.  But if this is true, shouldn’t free software also reduce reliance from the other sources of commercial software in Brazil (players 1-7 above)?  Of course it should, but that’s not the general perception because some of these others, such as IBM, have put on the cloak of ‘open systems’ to market themselves as free software loving champions.  But if that were really true, I wonder where all that money is coming from and then going to?  So the bigger question is:  how much do these commercial companies generate for the Brazilian software economy relative to what they are profiting?

This is very important for Brazil, particularly as it relates to exporting to developing nations; for example, from 2002-2005 Brazil has increased total value of exports to Africa, Middle East, and Asian from US$13.4 billion to $28.8 billion (Ricardo Neiva Tavares, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Economist, 27/5/2006).  Generating revenue to Brazilian companies through software exports will be an important part of future growth in this area.

From a Microsoft perspective, we are seeing real value for Brazil using our software to build their software ecosystem, a few statistics about Brazil and Microsoft:

    • Professionals that develop software provide services and offer training on the Microsoft platform: 313,500 (source: IDC)
    • Software developers on the Microsoft Platform: 80,000
    • Companies that employ these professionals: 15,000
    • Taxes corresponding to the MS ecosystem: R$ 1 billion
    • Freely-trained public employees: 10,200
    • Security: since October 2003, 110,000 trained professionals in Brazil

In my time here in Brazil I will have an ear out for how people are using OSS and how they are interoperating with commercial software – the best lessons are always found ‘in the field’ – and it will be interesting to test how much ‘what you see everyday’ effects the perceptions and how this holds up to reality in the cold light of day (or maybe a little warmer light of day here in Brazil).


P.S. – adding to this on my return home, after I wrote the above.  Indeed the veneer of ‘free’ has faded in Brazil like it has in most countries as businesses enter into their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th ‘wave’ of Linux/OSS usage and realize that there are certainly still costs with ‘free’ software, such as in management, integration, security, people, etc.

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