2 days ago I wrote a post about the lack of Google Israel’s involvement in the development community.
It seems that in most of the places (I’m sure in the US, I’m not sure if the rest of the development centers in South American and Europe have the same involvement) where Google has development centers they are a little more involved with the development community in the form of lecture, places to meet and chat, sponsoring events, etc.
I got referenced on ZDNet by Donna Bogatin (Thanks Donna! :-) ) in a post Donna wrote about a victory that Microsoft had over Google in Israel for an enterprise search engine.
There are a couple of things I wanted to comment about Donna’s post.
People need to realize that Microsoft had a presence in Israel for quite some time starting from the 1990 or so (if I’m not mistaken) and the first development center outside of the USA that Microsoft had was the one in Haifa, Israel.
There is a big and fat contract for the Israeli government as well as the Israeli education system with Microsoft, so there is no real wonder why Microsoft one this contract. Of course I might be off on this one since I lack all of the details, but its reasonable to assume that one less contractor and some other promises from Microsoft and the contact was sealed.
One anecdote is that the Israeli government helped to finance the Hebrew translation and major Hebrew support in OpenOffice (just go to openoffice.org.il – Hebrew Link – and see that the effort was sponsored by the Israeli ministry of finance). One of the reasons for this project was to enable every citizen and school to have an advanced word processor, spreadsheet editor, and other solutions in Hebrew and for free as part of the government of Israel’s online government project (which is quite advance in global terms as well).
This means that every school in Israel, the Israeli education system and all of the government offices could have migrated to a pure Hebrew OpenOffice and save a lot of money (and there are better uses for this money in Israel. Trust me) instead of getting a contract from Microsoft to supply it’s Office suite.
Of course, even though the government paid for the translation and migration of OpenOffice to Hebrew, Microsoft still won the contract (probably because the government didn’t want to move to another operating system and retrain the staff) and Israel got a “real deal” so that it paid quite a few bucks for that.
There are rumors Steve Ballmer’s visit a few years back was the one that made the deal very lucrative for the Israeli government and closed the deal.
Now I know it sounds like I’m yet another Microsoft basher and it might be partially true. I am, however, proficient and trained enough in Microsoft technologies. I even have an Advanced .NET Debugging blog and I have worked (and still working) with Microsoft technologies for a good part of my professional life.
I do, however, feel comfortable in Linux and non MS technologies (both Web and non web).
On the other hand I’m not an MS zealot as well as not an open source zealot. I believe that the right tools should be used for the right cause and circumstances and I do believe in open and good competition which is a bit lacking in Israel at the moment, at least from the development community side.
As I’ve said in the previous post, the open source community in Israel is quite alive and kicking and they do have conferences and group meetings, but its mainly based on the good will of good people to organize and make sure things like a Linux Installfest and the Israeli Open Source developers conference still happens, usually with a very small participation and/or funding of the “big companies”.
I just hope that one of the Googlers here or in the US read about it and decide to act upon it :-)