The health service will evaluate Sun Microsystems'(JDS) package, which includes the SuSE Linux operating system, a browser, StarOffice and Ximian e-mail.
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The NHS has about a million employees. As it is still in talks with Microsoft about a newcontract, Granger's words are likely to chill Microsoft executives to the bone.
Granger made no secret of his anger at the cost of software licensing when speaking at a recent event, making barbed comments about Microsoft's reluctance to offer a bigger discount on 800,000 licenses.
"The cost of software is going to become several orders of magnitude lower than it is now. I don't value the (intellectual property) in the same way they do," Granger said at the time.
Whether the public announcement of the open-source trials is merely a ruse to improve Granger's bargaining position with Microsoft or a genuine evaluation of desktop Linux remains to be seen.
Charles Andrews, the director of public-sector sales at Sun, told Silicon.com that the NHS could put more money into front-line patient care with the cost savings from ditching Microsoft's software. Sun offers JDS for $50 per employee per year.
"You pay one price for one of them and a lot less for the other," he said.
Silicon.com's Andy McCue reported from London.