Microsoft ups open source battle in Europe

Microsoft Corp. has appointed a senior executive to a new position in Europe to improve relationships with governments across the continent, a move apparently designed to counter interest in open source software there.

Jonathan Murray has been appointed “national technology officer” and will be based in Zurich. Until about two weeks ago he oversaw sales to Microsoft’s top 50 business customers as vice president of global accounts, a group he helped create in early 2000.

The new job is part sales and part evangelism, Murray will be “building better relationships in the public sector across Europe,” a Microsoft spokesperson said Friday. Peter Moore, chief technology officer and general manager of technical sales, plays a similar role in Asia, she said.

The popularity of open source products in Europe and Asia is a challenge for Microsoft. In Germany, for example, the city of Munich in May decided to install Linux and open source office applications on the 14,000 computers in its public administration.

In China, Sun Microsystems Inc. and the China Standard Software Co. Ltd. have agreed to develop desktop computers based on Sun’s Linux-based Java Desktop System that could eventually see the software installed on hundreds of millions of computers in the People’s Republic of China, Sun’s Chief Executive Officer Scott McNealy announced earlier this week.

“It is clear that Microsoft has a problem in the public sector worldwide. They have to convince people that it is politically correct to buy software from commercial software firms,” said Rob Helm, research director at Directions on Microsoft Inc., an independent research company in Kirkland, Washington.

Microsoft has been pretty outspoken in its fight against Linux and open source products in the U.S., a fight led by Senior Vice-President of Advanced Strategies and Policy Craig Mundie.

“It sounds like Murray will be taking that fight to Europe where it is particularly hot right now,” Helm said. “Murray certainly has as much experience as anybody in trying to deal with large customers. It is an important dimension in Microsoft’s fight against open source.”Barbara Gordon, formerly vice-president of the global sales organization at Sun, has replaced Murray as vice president of global accounts.