16 February 2004 The French government is planning to migrate a “significant number” of desktop computers to open source software, in order to evaluate the costs and interoperability of alternatives to Microsoft’s Windows operating system.
Jacques Sauret, director of the French Agency for the Development of the Electronic Administration, said that between 5% and 15% of the 17,000 computers used by the administration in Paris were likely to move to the open source operating system Linux.
The trial is being run by systems integration consultancy Unilog. In 2003, a Unilog report spurred Munich City Council to vote to migrate 14,000 desktops from Microsoft to Linux, although that project recently encountered early “technical difficulties”.
The French trial is part of a wider plan, called Project ADELE, to reorganise the Paris administration’s IT budget and to update its IT systems over the next few years. In particular, the administration hopes to reduce spending on software licences in order to be able to spend more on development.
As well as exploring open source alternatives, Paris intends to cut costs by negotiating a single licensing deal with Microsoft, rather than leaving each department to deal with the Windows vendor independently.
Speaking at a meeting of the French IT and Telecoms Press Club, Jacques Sauret, director of the administration, said: “Today, we’re a captive market. We’re going to engage in discussions with Microsoft to obtain a single tariff for the whole administration, to get economies of scale.”
However, Sauret’s approach has drawn comparisons with tactics used in the UK public sector, in which the threat of Linux is invoked in order to extract big cuts in licence charges from Microsoft.