Microsoft promises to lift its public-sector game

Microsoft is promising to clean up its act in the public sector saying it will attempt to deliver better code, service and solutions in the future to maintain the conveyer belt of Australian taxpayers' cash to Redmond. But the company is not quite sure how much money it makes from taxpayer-funded deployments.

Asked for the exact figure of Australian taxpayer-funded revenues that Microsoft earns from the government, the company refused to divulge the amount, or even a ballpark figure, on the grounds that it may possibly constitute an unauthorised earnings statement to the markets. Taking the question on notice, Microsoft said that as a general rule, revenues from governments accounted for around one-third of total revenues, with a significantly higher investment and user servicing cost.

The startling revelation that Microsoft’s product and service offerings may occasionally leave something to be desired was spelled out to a gathering of government IT purchasers at the Gartner Symposium in Sydney yesterday.

Carefully navigating around any possible imputation of vendor liability for the sins of old, Microsoft’s Australian director of public sector [business], Kevin Ackhurst, told the audience that government buyers can expect to see a conscious effort to improve the company’s performance in the public sector.

“It is important that if we want to do business with government we are seen as trustworthy. [The] Trustworthy computing [initiative] has forced us to think about the way we do business. It’s important to assure people. For instance we’ve been forced to think about our licensing, warranties and indemnities. This is not to air our dirty laundry but to set…objectives [to lift performance],” Ackhurst said.

Ackhurst said the recent outbreak of the Blaster virus had driven home the message to Microsoft that vulnerabilities needed to be addressed, and that Microsoft was working hard to change the culture of its army of code cutters.

“One only has to look at the Blaster virus to see the impact it had on the public sector,” Ackhurst said, adding that “We don’t want people to be away on school holidays and come back to find they cannot use their infrastructure.

“A product that has security flaws in it makes for a more complex product, so it is important to [eliminate] those flaws to make a more simple product,” Ackhurst continued.

The audience was told research conducted by Microsoft found that for every dollar spent on Microsoft software another eight was generated in the form of other software, hardware and services.

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