Thursday, 30 January 2014

Cabinet Office to switch to open source

For the past 15 years or so every year has been the 'year of open source'. Chief demon has been Microsoft. So today's news story in The Guardian must have been music in the ears for open source advocates. We have been here before. Some years ago the state government of Bavaria in Germany was widely reported as 'ditching' Microsoft.

Clearly with the UK Government committed to savings in all Government departments it must be a no-brainer for Ministers to cut the software expenditure. The article tends to only be talking about Office rather than open source in general. There seems to be no mention of ditching Windows for Linux.

If the Government was prepared to standardise of OpenOffice then that would be big win. it could also consider the 'cloud' and be enticed to Google Docs. There would be a training implication but Google has been winning business. Open source advocates would like to pretend that Google is this little upstart business and Microsoft is the evil corporation. Unfortunately the truth is that they are both corporations. In some respects, with around 80% of the mobile phone OS market, Google is a monopolist corporation in mobile computing and Microsoft a small also ran competitor.

The problem for the Ministers in Government is that 'Office' is no longer just word processing and spreadsheets but it is also an ecosystem. It links into other enterprise collaboration tools such as Exchange email servers, Dynamics CRM, SharePoint and more. Most enterprises pay the license for all these tools combined so the saving on one component is less than you might imagine. Removing Office (the product) from Office (the ecosystem) would be like deconstructing a Spaghetti Bolognese.

A more cynical explanation for the story might be that it is a planted non-story to try and get better licensing terms from Microsoft.

Whatever the truth of this I guess we are in the year of open source (again).

Link The Guardian