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55,000 MS desktops at risk

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Danish local government is evaluating open sources alternatives to Microsoft desktop software, in response to a proposed 30 per cent price hike for Windows 2000 and Office 2000 licenses.

The new terms incorporate a software leasing model - forcing councils to install the newest versions of Microsoft software, whether they need them or not,
Hans Lembøl, an IT manager for the city of Slagelse, in Denmark, said.

"We don't think council payers money should be spent in this way, we don't see where we get value," Lembøl told us.

"In looking at alternatives its not just that we're annoyed with Microsoft, we want to look for products that give the right price and value for the user."

Seven Danish IT directors, including Lembøl, have got together under the auspices of the Association of Danish Municipalities, to investigate open source software packages as an alternative to Microsoft products.

In particular, they are interested in StarOffice 6 (a full version of which is due in March) because of the potential savings it offers over Office 2000, and because it could be rolled out with minimum disruption.

Moving to StarOffice could save roughly €100 per user annually in licensing charges, Lembøl estimates. Upon completion of a product evaluation, lasting between two to three months, of StarOffice 6, the group of seven managers plans to put forward recommendations to their peers in other municipal councils.

The recommendations are not mandatory but the prospect of 275 municipalities with 55,000 desktops eyeing open source alternatives is unwelcome news for Microsoft.

After completing an evaluation of StarOffice, Lembøl and his colleagues plan to evaluate Linux as a replacement for Windows 2000 on the server (and possibly desktop), though looking at an alternative to Office remains top of the agenda.

"This is not a case of warfare against Microsoft. The primary object of the evaluation is not to put pressure at Microsoft, we just want freedom of choice in buying or leasing software. If Microsoft changed its opinion towards pricing policy we'd appreciate it," Lembøl said.

"We don't disregard the qualities of coherence Microsoft gives us but we have a commitment to find alternatives that will enable municipalities to save money." ®

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