Australian state snubs Linux and Vista for 100,000 PCs

Talk about new desktop operating systems may be at an all-time high, but the government of Australian state Queensland has no intention to progress from the six-year-old Windows XP for more than 100,000 computers to be purchased over the next three years.

Queensland Purchasing, part of Queensland Department of Public Works, has released a standing offer arrangement for the provision of desktop personal computers, portable computers and servers, which will allow some 26 agencies – everything from health to police and transport – to purchase a standard operating environment.

There are three specifications for the PCs: a “corporate” desktop, a “corporate” portable, and a “corporate” tablet. All three must be supplied with the Windows XP SP2 licence and media.

The tenders for the contract will close in April and the delivery period will commence in July 2007 and end in June 2009 with a possible extension for a further two years.

A spokesperson for the department said the Windows XP SP2 tender is for a hardware refresh in the state’s “rolling replacement process”.

The department estimates some 35,000 PCs, 6000 portable computers, and 1000 servers will be purchased every year for the next three years.

“Value depends on price [and] agencies negotiate within that arrangement for things they want or don’t want,” the spokesperson said.

Based on an April 2006 annual audit of Microsoft software licences, the total installed base of desktop and portable personal computers in Queensland is approximately 82,500.

When asked about the possibility of new machines being shipped with OEM copies of Vista as Microsoft withdraws OEM XP sales as early as January 2008, the spokesperson said some departments may have to buy Vista licences and “downgrade” to XP which is “okay for some time”.

“We don’t have an enterprise arrangement with Microsoft for Vista [and] we don’t have an upgrade process to Vista at all,” the spokesperson said.

Furthermore, all offers submitted in response to the ICT invitation must be lodged via the Queensland Government Marketplace e-Tender Web site and “must be readable in the following software package: Microsoft Office version 2003, running on Windows XP SP 2”.

“Failure to comply with this requirement may result in a nonconforming offer,” according to the tender.

With the release of Ubuntu Linux 7.04 “Feisty Fawn” this month, IT departments have another desktop operating system option for standard PCs, but, like Vista, it is not on Queensland’s procurement radar.

“Linux and open source is not part of this process. Machines can run it but the current government environment is based on Windows XP,” the spokesperson said.

On the servers there is more competition with hardware suppliers encouraged to certify machines to run Microsoft Windows Server, Linux, Unix, and Novell NetWare.

With virtually no desktop software competition, ironically the state is looking for “a small panel of [hardware] suppliers, which drives competition and limits the switching cost from one to another”.

“We’re looking for better footprint management across government [and] dealing with one [hardware supplier] is not something we’ve considered,” the spokesperson said, adding agencies buy products off all of the major hardware vendors, with about 8 to 10 in all.

It is the vendor’s decision to submit an Intel or AMD, or both, computers in their offer.

In addition to conducting a routine hardware refresh, the Queensland government is developing a whole-of-government SAP supplier relationship management and shopping cart, to enable departments to conduct procurement online.

The implementation of this system is scheduled to commence within the period of the proposed ICT arrangement and tenderers are required to indicate their “ability and willingness” to integrate their Web-based ordering systems with the whole-of-government SAP system.

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