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Amsterdam to evaluate open source

Seeking independence from proprietary software, city joins growing list of other municipalities testing Linux.

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

The city of Amsterdam has become the latest high-profile public organization to evaluate the potential of open-source software.

Two departments within the city administration will spend a total of $393,900 in 2007 evaluating Linux on the desktop. The city is eager to reduce its dependence on monopoly suppliers, and sees the trial as a way to evaluate alternatives.

"A business case has been established this year which shows that an open-software strategy leads to more supplier independence," the Amsterdam city council said in a statement. "The use of open software can ensure better exchange of data and storage of information without unacceptable financial or logistical risks."

Amsterdam said it did not intend to stop using Microsoft software entirely, but expected to spend less on proprietary software. "It is not the intention to entirely phase out closed-source software," city administrators said in the statement. "However, it is expected that the new contract with Microsoft will be smaller."

Amsterdam's current contract with Microsoft expires at the end of 2008, while its open-source tests are due to be completed within the first half of this year. The two departments conducting the tests will be the housing department and a borough office. Other departments will follow suit if the trial is successful, the council said.

Nine other cities in the Netherlands are also evaluating open-source software and have, together with Amsterdam, signed a manifesto on how they will proceed. They include The Hague, Eindhoven and Groningen. The Dutch government is funding the research through a 3-year-old program focused on supplier independence and interoperability.

Outside the Netherlands, several of Europe's largest cities are evaluating Linux.

Austria's capital city, Vienna, has embarked on an ambitious Red Hat desktop rollout. And Munich has transferred 100 users to the Debian configuration of Linux. It plans to migrate 80 percent of its PCs to Linux by the middle of 2009.

But other public sector projects have not been so successful.

In the U.K., Birmingham City Council spent almost $1 million on evaluating Linux before abandoning the project earlier this year. Birmingham said it was cheaper to upgrade its systems to Windows XP.

Richard Thurston of ZDNet UK reported from London.  

Correction: This story incorrectly reported when Amsterdam will begin evaluating Linux on the desktop. The evaluation will begin in 2007.