UK government renegotiates Microsoft fees, eyes open source

Emboldened by its renegotiated software licensing agreement with Microsoft Corp., the U.K. government is debating the possibility of using open-source software to complement or even replace some of its Microsoft software.

In November, the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) said it was in talks with Microsoft over a single contract to supply its Office and Windows software to the country’s 497,600 public servants. The government had threatened to cease using Microsoft software if the parties could not come to an agreement over an increase in licensing fees that the OGC claimed could raise costs by as much as 200 percent.

The OGC, in Norwich, England, was established in April 2000 by the U.K. government as an agency within the U.K. Treasury to modernize its IT procurement procedure, assuring that the government gets value for the money it spends on IT.

Earlier this the year, the OGC started asking all of the different government departments how much they were each paying for their Microsoft licences, only to discover there were huge discrepancies between departments, said OGC spokesman Martin Day.

The government then decided for the first time to negotiate with Microsoft as a united group, rather than on an individual basis. “This was something that Microsoft had not come up against before and they were none too happy at first,” Day said.

On March 1, the U.K. government signed a licensing agreement with Microsoft that the government estimates will save taxpayers