French parliament dumping Windows for Linux

Study by technology services company convinces the National Assembly that the switch will be cost-effective.

France's gendarmes and Ministry of Culture and Communication have done it, and now members of the country's parliament are about to switch to open source.

Starting in June 2007, PCs in French deputes' offices will be equipped with a Linux operating system and open-source productivity software.

The project, backed by parliament members Richard Cazenave and Bernard Carayon of the Union for a Popular Movement party, will see 1,154 French parliamentary workstations running on Linux, with OpenOffice.org productivity software, the Firefox Web browser and an open-source e-mail client.

A spokesperson for the parliament's administration said a decision as to the choice of Linux distribution and e-mail client hasn't yet been made. Currently, some of the parliament's servers have been running Linux, with Apache Web servers and the Mambo content management system.

The project was the subject of a study by technology services company Atos Origin, whose conclusions convinced the French National Assembly to make the switch.

"The study showed that open-source software will from now on offer functionality adapted to the needs of MPs (members of parliament) and will allow us to make substantial savings despite the associated migration and training costs," the parliament said.

Open-source supporters have welcomed the decision. Benoît Sibaud, president of April, the association for the research into and promotion of open-source computing, said the decision to migrate to open source will enable the French parliament to have greater control over its information technology without depending on any one vendor and to make better use of public money.

This will be the first case of a French public institution switching its PCs to a Linux operating system. Previous open-source initiatives concerned servers, as was the case with the Minstry of Agriculture, and with OpenOffice and Firefox, which were adopted by France's gendarmerie.

Christophe Guillemin of ZDNet France reported from Paris.

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