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Texas state Senate bans Vista from use in government agencies

Senate provision contained in a budget bill that still requires final approval

By Eric Lai
April 2, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The Texas state Senate yesterday gave preliminary approval to a state budget that includes a provision forbidding government agencies from upgrading to Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Vista without written consent of the legislature.

Sen. Juan Hinojosa, a Democrat from McAllen and vice chairman of the Finance Committee, proposed the rider because "of the many reports of problems with Vista."

"We are not in any way, shape or form trying to pick on Microsoft, but the problems with this particular [operating] system are known nationwide," Hinojosa said during a Senate session debating the rider Wednesday evening (starting at 4:42 of this RealMedia video stream). "And the XP operating system is working very well."

The rider requires state agencies to get the written approval of the Legislative Budget Board before purchasing Vista licenses, upgrades or even new PCs with Vista pre-installed on it.

A Microsoft spokeswoman, in an e-mail, wrote, "We're surprised that the Texas Senate Finance Committee adopted a rider which, in effect, singles out a specific corporation and product for unequal treatment. We hope as the budget continues to go through the process, this language will be removed."

Microsoft has 1,500 employees in the state. It also opened a $500 million data center in San Antonio last year, the spokeswoman said.

According to Texas Department of Information Resources data shared with The Houston Chronicle, 44 state agencies have already spent a total of $6.1 million to upgrade to Vista in the last several years. They range from a low of $122 spent by the Texas Board of Professional Land Surveying to $1.6 million spent by the Health and Human Services Commission.

State agencies make their own IT purchasing decisions independent of the DIR. They may, however, buy through contracts procured by the DIR, according to DIR spokesman David Duncan.

"As a state agency, we are prohibited from saying anything that is positive or negative towards legislation," he said. "We will comply with the will of the legislature."

The DIR's 265 employees remain on Windows XP and Mac OS X, Duncan said. Windows users are likely to skip Vista entirely and upgrade to the upcoming Windows 7 operating system, he added, because of the timing of the agency's regular upgrade cycle.

"We're not holding off as a reaction to what Microsoft is producing," he said.

Texas' two-year $182.2 billion budget was passed by the Senate last night by a vote of 26-5. It awaits final approval next week. The state House of Representatives is crafting its own version of a state budget. The rider must still be approved by a conference committee comprising both Senate and House members to reconcile the two versions of the budget, said a spokesman for Hinojosa.

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