[LINK] UK Gov deal opens up 2m desktops to MS rivals
Mon, 04 Mar 2002 09:49:12 +1100
UK Gov deal opens up 2m desktops to MS rivals
By John Lettice
Posted: 03/01/2002 at 07:38 EST
The USA Register
The UK Government's Office of Government Commerce has struck a
"ground-breaking" three-cornered deal covering the use of desktop
productivity software in Government departments. The deal is the upshot of
protracted and at times acrimonious negotiations between the OGC and
Microsoft, during which OGC CEO Peter Gershon repeatedly stage-whispered
that Redmond had better cut its prices or uk.gov was off to "alternatives."
The OGC now claims that the deal, which takes the form of memorandums of
understanding with IBM, Sun and Microsoft, will save £100 million over
three years, and covers two million desktops. It is not entirely a defeat
for Microsoft, in that the people buying productivity software will still
be able to to buy Microsoft Office if they want to, but equally it's not a
massive win either. Gershon has not done a huge volume margin gouge with
one supplier, but has instead moved to legitimise Microsoft's competitors.
Sun in particular sees it as a crucial foot in the door.
It's not clear where the £100 million comes from, but it could be that this
is the amount that would be saved if all purchasers did actually go for
Office, according to whatever pricing deal the OGC has now struck with
Microsoft. That is of course an entirely theoretical saving, given that at
least some of the purchasers are going to go with alternatives, but the OGC
will certainly have achieved attractive rates with Sun and IBM. The
alternatives, since you ask, are StarOffice from Sun and Smartsuite (no, we
don't know why either) from IBM. So it seems reasonable to elect Sun as the
big winner here.
Sun technical consultant Dave Pinnington told The Register today that his
company sees the move as the first stage in breaking "Microsoft's monopoly
on the public sector desktop." He agreed that the inertia of IT managers
sticking with Microsoft for the sake of a quiet life still has to be
overcome, but pointed out the OGC announcement will have the effect of
giving legitimacy to the competition, and hence will help break down the
He also points to the huge costs associated with sticking with Microsoft
right now. Many PCs in the public sector just plain won't run Windows XP
and Office XP, so new hardware would have to be deployed, as is always the
case for customers who try to stick with Microsoft's bracing upgrade
escalator. Sun cheekily pitches the notion that if UK government didn't
upgrade to XP for five years, going for StarOffice instead, then it'd save
more like £1 billion. That again is a notional figure, but increased
deployment of StarOffice combined with cutbacks in hardware upgrades most
certainly would achieve savings in excess of £100 million.
Even if StarOffice is a wild success in government, at this stage the OGC
deals will not directly mean a triumph for open source. Most deployments
are likely to be on existing Windows platforms, but nevertheless it will
become easier and more feasible for the UK public sector to begin
experimenting with StarOffice-Linux combinations. Sun also sees the moves
as giving it some traction in selling Sun Ray thin client systems into the
public sector - the game, certainly, has opened up.
Wow! They've got the Internet on computers now!