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The U.K.'s confusion over Microsoft and open-source cost savings

The U.K. is looking to save money by buying more Microsoft--which may well be true--but calls the move part of its commitment to open source, which is certainly not true.

The U.K. government claims that it may save 75 million pounds ($119 million) over the next five years by harnessing itself firmly to Microsoft. That may be true, but the cost savings come from what the U.K. would have paid Microsoft, and they don't take into account what it could have saved by shopping around.

More ironic, however, than such ironic "cost savings" is its nomenclature: Angela Eagle, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, suggests the Microsoft purchase "reinforces the Government's commitment to its Open Source Action Plan." Huh??? Buying lots of non-open-source Microsoft software is a commitment source?

I think Eagle needs a primer on what open source means, and what it costs.

Perhaps Gartner could help. Gartner is now saying that e-commerce teams within IT departments can shave 35 percent off their costs by using open source. Forrester, for its part, surveyed a wide range of corporations and found that 87 percent had achieved cost savings through open source.

Some public sector organizations get it. The United Nations, for example, is rolling out a new program to bring tuition-free higher education to the world using open source and open course materials. And the U.S. Department of Defense continues to increase its adoption of open source to boost productivity while simultaneously cutting costs.

Microsoft is, of course, getting more active in open source, and is also trying to learn to integrate open-source principles (like hassle-free evaluations), but having some seriously mixed results.

However, buying more Office licenses won't net the U.K. any open-source cost savings, from Microsoft or anyone else. It's very likely the U.K. could significantly improve upon its savings with Microsoft simply by using open source. I'd be willing to wager that the U.K. could save at least five times that the first year.

Will Eagle give me the chance to prove it? Not likely, mate.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.