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13 March 2009, 09:57

French coppers save a few pennies with open source

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A report on the Open Source Observatory and Repository Europe (OSOR.EU) web site, says that, according to Lieutenant-Colonel Xavier Guimard, the French Gendarmerie's gradual migration to a complete open source desktop and web applications has saved millions of euros. The Lieutenant-Colonel, says "This year the IT budget will be reduced by 70 percent. This will not affect our IT systems."

The French national police force, the Gendarmerie Nationale, began their migration away from Microsoft software when in 2005 it replaced Microsoft Office with OpenOffice, across the entire force. On the 2006 release of Windows Vista the decision was made to phase out Microsoft software altogether.

As Guimard told the attendees at the annual conference organised by NOiV, the Dutch national resource centre on open source and open standards, the Gendarmerie was buying between 12,000 and 15,000 Microsoft licences a year. In 2005 only 27 licences were purchased. Guimard estimates that since 2004 the Gendarmerie has saved 50 million euros through using free and open source software. The Gendarmerie maintains around 90,000 desktops serving a 105,000 strong work force.

The move to open source was originally prompted by one of the Gendarmerie's accountants who took offence at the idea of having to purchase new Microsoft licences. He tried OpenOffice and liked it. When Microsoft then started to lobby the Gendarmerie over the purchase of new software the accountant showed OpenOffice to the force's General Manager.

Guimard says all new PC's purchased now run Ubuntu with Firefox, Thunderbird and OpenOffice and that the transition from Windows XP has been easy, with little training required. He said "Moving from Microsoft XP to Vista would not have brought us many advantages and Microsoft said it would require training of users. Moving from XP to Ubuntu, however, proved very easy. The two biggest differences are the icons and the games. Games are not our priority."


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