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The battle for the desktop in the UK's civil service may have taken a turn for the worse for Microsoft, according to a story in today's Times, which appears to be the current home of the Microsoft-civil service talks leak.

The Office of Government Commerce (OGC), an arm of the Treasury set up to cut better deals with Government suppliers, has been haggling with Microsoft over licence fees for some time now, and last month CEO Peter Gershon delivered a smart kick calculated to induce the software giant to reduce its prices.

This would appear not to have worked the first time, so the OGC is coming in for another run. According to The Times Gershon now has support across Government departments to secure a single software deal, and the OGC is of the view that there are viable alternatives to using Microsoft Office.

It's not yet clear what these alternatives are, but it would clearly be a lot simpler for the civil service to switch productivity software than to switch the underlying platform, so the threat is real. Office is also a considerably more lucrative franchise for Microsoft than Windows itself, and the loss of 500,000 desktops, the number involved here, would hurt. Gershon was scheduled to meet Microsoft UK boss Neil Holloway later today. No doubt with a copy of The Times tucked under his arm. ®

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