French police deal blow to Microsoft
PARIS, January 30, 2008 - The French paramilitary police force saidWednesday it is ditching Microsoft for the free Linux operating system,becoming one of the biggest administrations in the world to make the break. The move completes the gendarmerie's severance from Microsoft which beganin 2005 when it moved to open sourcing for office applications such as wordprocessing. It switched to open source Internet browsers in 2006. Linux is an open-source operating system, which used to be the reserve ofcomputer geeks but is now an easy-to-use system aimed at average users. The gendarmerie's 70,000 desktops currently use Microsoft's Windows XPoperating system. But these will progressively change over to the Linux systemdistributed by Ubuntu, explained Colonel Nicolas Geraud, deputy director ofthe gendarmerie's IT department. "We will introduce Linux every time we have to replace a desktop computer,"he said, "so this year we expect to change 5,000-8,000 to Ubuntu and then12,000-15,000 over the next four years so that every desktop uses the Linuxoperating system by 2013-2014." There are three reasons behind the move, Geraud said at the Solution Linux2008 conference here. The first is to diversify suppliers and reduce theforce's reliance on one company, the second is to give the gendarmerie masteryof the operating system and the third is cost, he said. He also added that "the Linux interface is ahead of other operating systemscurrently on the market for professional use." Vista, for example, Microsoft's latest operating system, is being spurnedby consumers who cite "concerns about its cost, resource requirements, andincompatibility with their existing applications," according toInformationWeek.com. Geraud explained that the move to an open source operating system waslogical after the police switched in 2005 to open sourcing for its officeapplications and in 2006 for its Internet browsers and its email. The move away from licenced products is saving the gendarmerie about sevenmillion euros (10.3 million dollars) a year for all its PCs. "In 2004 we had to buy 13,000 licences for office suites for our PCs," hesaid, "but in the three years since then we've only had to buy a total of 27licences." In 2005 the gendarmerie switched from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice -- acollection of applications such as a word processor, spreadsheet, andpresentation programme similar to Microsoft Powerpoint, all of which can bedownloaded free. A year later it abandoned Mircosoft's Internet Explorer for the MozillaFoundation's browser Firefox and its email client Thunderbird. "When we made that choice Firefox represented about 3.0 percent of Internetbrowsers and it's about 20 to 25 percent now which confirms our choice,"Geraud said. The gendarmerie with its 100,000 employees is the biggest administration toshift to open sourcing for its operating system, but it is not the first inFrance. That honour belongs to the National Assembly which adopted Ubuntu forits 1,200 PCs in 2007. Although the gendarmerie is ahead of the market the market is catching up. Dell, for example, this week started offering Ubuntu Linux 7.10 on its XPS1330 laptops in France, Germany, Spain and Britain, while US customers will beable to order the machines within the next week or so, according to thecompany's website.