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Israel accelerates free software migration

Wants Thai prices

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The strategic decision to loosen dependencies on Microsoft software instigated by the Israel Department of Commerce is gathering momentum in other government departments.

More intriguingly, departments are demanding that Microsoft follow suit with its Thai price cuts - which Microsoft has steadfastly refused to contemplate in the more affluent EMEA market.

Writing for Israel's Ynet, Gal Mor reports that the Israeli Treasury has decided to walk away from the Government's contract with Microsoft. Signed two years ago, the contract expires this month, and the ministry is testing localized builds of Mandrake Linux.

The Department of Commerce was the first to break cover, and has begun a project to switch most, but not all, of its desktop users from Windows/Office to Open Office running on IBM hardware. OpenOffice now supports Hebrew and Arabic - right to left languages vital in the country.

However the Financy Ministry holds a key strategic position in the procurement process. Departments which want to sign deals over 400,000 sheckels (around $90,000) will need the Treasury's blessing.

Microsoft heaped scorn on the Commerce Department's decision to abandon Office for the software libre alternative. The procurement decision relegated users to second best, said local Microsoft officials, comparing OpenOffice 1.1 functionality to Word 97. But that appears to be plenty good enough for the department. The cost of migrating away from a Microsoft desktop infrastructure is far from trivial, but appears to be worthwhile for an increasing number of public sector users.

It raises the tantalizing question: will Redmond respond to price cuts similar to those made in Thailand recently? ®

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