Silflay Hraka (one of my daily reads) points to an article in which, among other things, states, "In February, Ridge announced a plan to turn the state's website into a controversial mega-portal called PA PowerPort, which Microsoft has agreed to build at no cost." A site which, "...includes business-to-business e-commerce, secure online bill paying, news feeds, free email accounts (using Microsoft's Hotmail), and online yellow pages,..."
I'm going to assume that the journalist writing this article speaks English and means "no cost" is the same as free. That's pretty impressive. Now Silflay asserts that, "Any Linux based system is more secure, not to mention cheaper, especially in this time of record deficits." I believe the first part of that is definitely true, however, I believe that part of that security is simply because it's not as big a target (sorta like how safe Lichtenstein is from terrorism). As to being cheaper, in general, Hell yeah. In this case I gotta say it's pretty hard to beat free. Certainly no Linux distributor could put together such a system "at no cost." Consider that the largest in the US would still have to hire people (straight or contract), or move them from the profitable side of the shop, to do a project whose production costs come from already thin profit margins. Without enough money to pay for it, they won't have enough money to make it, and the political returns could never be enough to offset the monetary loss. Certainly as a world wide open source project it could be done for free, but how many of the Linux gurus out there (worldwide) want to donate free time to the US government, and do we really want to trust part of our governments system to a group of people that could contain some pretty unsavory sources that hate the US government and America?
Certainly this, at first glance, fits the model Linux distributors seem to be using. Inexpensive or free software, and a charge for support. I'd bet Microsoft is considering something similar in this case.
Sure you get what you pay for, but then the best sex I ever had didn't cost me anything (not even the cost of dinner and a movie) and the best meal I ever had didn't cost me anything.
I'm sure if Suze or Red Hat could've matched Microsoft's bid and promise a system with features equal to the one Microsoft proposed they would have had a good chance of getting it. Frankly I don't think they'd want to.