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Bristol Council ditches MS for Star Office

Poster child public sector contract for open source

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Bristol City Council is shifting 5,000 workers off proprietary desktop software and onto open source to help it save £1.4m over the next five years. Corel WordPerfect, Microsoft Office and Lotus 1-2-3 will all be ditched in favour of Sun's StarOffice 7.

The decision was made on Monday by Councillor John Bees, executive member for central support services. It is one of the largest public sector contracts StarOffice has won, and one of the biggest shifts away from Microsoft products. The battle to get Linux onto desktops has been waiting for a decent public sector win since Newham, which was to move to open source, but had an 11th hour change of mind. Steve Ballmer made clear how seriously Microsoft takes the threat of public sector interest in open source last month.

Cllr Bees, said: "This is further evidence that the city council is determined to be as cost effective as it can in the way it works - while neither compromising the quality of its services to the public or the resources available to staff. Our information technology specialists have spent three years evaluating the options and investigating in detail the technical, financial and cultural issues involved in switching the majority of our desktops to StarOffice. We are convinced that this is the right way forward and will offer benefits all round."

The exception to the change is 1,800 desktops in the education department and schools. These will remain on Microsoft Office "for the time being", because of the more generous licensing terms the software giant offers for educational users. These users will also have access to Star Office. A small number of other staff will keep access to Microsoft applications which they need for "specific technical features not yet fully supported in Star Office".

Bristol Council believes the decision will help it meet targets set out in the Gershon report for all public bodies to reduce costs by 2.5 per cent. More details on Bristol's press release here. ®

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