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Oh La La! French Police Go Open Source

Despite what you might have heard, nobody in France actually says "Sacre bleu!" as an expression of surprise. Maybe people did at one time, but they don't anymore. These days, "oh la la!" (yes, just like in the old Sassoon commercials) is the expression of choice. So, if you're going to react with shock to the fact that the French national police force has dumped Microsoft for Ubuntu Linux, please, use the proper French expression.

Over the next few years, the gendarmerie -- remember, there's a national police force in France, not a collection of local police entities like what we have in the U.S. -- is going to shift its 70,000 desktops from Windows to Ubuntu, which, incidentally, is far and away the operating system with the name that's most fun to say.

Les flics ("the cops" in French) say that they'll save more than $10 million a year in license fees. And they're already using OpenOffice and Firefox, so there shouldn't be too much of an open source culture shock inside the organization. What we're wondering, then, is whether it's really true -- as Microsoft claims -- that running Windows is actually cheaper than running Linux despite the cost of Windows license fees. Sure, there might be some issues with integration somewhere, and there aren't as many experts trained to service open source applications as there are to service Windows, but still...$10 million a year? Oh la la, that's a lot of money.

We kind of wonder, too, whether, the European Union's regulatory war on Microsoft might be having a ripple effect on government IT departments overseas. (Oh, by the way, the U.S. will keep an eye on Microsoft for another 18 months, too.) We've read that some major European cities have also started to ditch Redmond's wares, and Europeans -- especially those who work in the public sector -- are sometimes more prone to listen to their governments than Americans are. (Actually, that's also true for people who don't work in the public sector. Your editor distinctly remembers reading and hearing during his time in France about how public service announcements about safe driving actually worked over there -- and fairly quickly and impressively, too. Then again, some of them were pretty disturbing.)

In any case, we're not going to jump on the alarmist, Microsoft-is-dying bandwagon that probably has one or two fewer seats today. Remember RCPU's rule: No matter what happens, Microsoft makes more money. But, the more Linux penetrates enterprise and government settings on the desktop, the more Microsoft had better think long and hard about what its partners and customers need Windows to be -- maybe, to start with, lighter, cheaper, more flexible and less like Vista.

Do you run into competition from open source on the desktop? Is running Windows really cheaper than going with Linux in the long run? Let me know at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on January 31, 2008 at 11:54 AM


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