French parliament picks Ubuntu for Linux switch

Starting this summer, 1,154 parliamentary desks will feature Linux-based PCs.

When members of the French parliament and their assistants return from their summer break, they will conduct business on PCs running Ubuntu.

Starting in June 2007, 1,154 desks will feature Linux-based PCs. During the latest IT update for parliamentary assistants, the National Assembly decided to switch from Windows to Linux, allowing the 577 parliament members to switch to nonproprietary software for the first time.

The project was won by IT services company Linagora, an open-source specialist, and Unilog. Mandriva was mentioned in several documents under consideration but was eventually dropped.

In addition to using the Ubuntu software, the parliament members and their assistants will use Firefox, OpenOffice.org, Mozilla messaging client Thunderbird and other applications.

Parliament members Richard Cazenave and Bernard Carayon, of the Union for a Popular Movement party, have defended the project, noting that there are certain advantages of open-source software such as the reduced cost of public IT equipment and the added value to French and European users.

Before making its decision, the assembly hired Atos Origin to undertake a study into the matter, which concluded that "open-source solutions now offer functionality adapted to the needs of MPs and will allow the realization of substantial economies, despite certain installation and training costs." The budget for switching from Windows to Linux is expected to be approximately $105,000.

The French lower house is already using open-source software elsewhere in its IT systems, including the Apache Web server and the Mambo content management system. The parliament members' move to open source is the first involving the switch of an operating system; previous initiatives have been more focused on servers, OpenOffice and Firefox.

Christophe Guillemin of ZDNet France reported from Paris.

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