UK official: Microsoft-funded report affected decision

A report carried out by Capgemini SA was the clincher in the decision by the London Borough of Newham to scrap its plans last year to switch to Linux on the desktop.

It was funded by Microsoft, though, giving rise to considerable concern

The man in charge of IT for the Borough, Richard Steel, has been telling the press how the report came about. Microsoft Corp. had asked if they might to commission the report from Capgemini in response to a report from a U.K.-based open source consultancy, Netproject, that had been commissioned first and which concluded that a switch to open source would be the best solution.

“We obviously recognize that you could question the independence of a report funded by Microsoft,” Steel conceded, adding: “It would be insane to claim otherwise.”

According to Capgemini, solving the Borough’s IT problems the Microsoft way had the potential to save it US$5.9 million over the next five years, versus a saving of just US$2.9 million for the Linux solution.

The report claimed to have compared total cost of ownership (TCO), transition costs, and risks and security. The Borough will now be deploying twelve different Microsoft software products, including tablet PCs. Skeptics are wondering if the whole strategy of commissioning the first report wasn’t just perhaps a gambit to pressure Microsoft into devising more lenient licensing terms and fees. But the officials involved deny that. The Borough merely defined what it needed in terms of business outcomes, it maintains, and the solution offering the greatest saving won.

The Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, said: “Newham is a great place to live and do business, but we have ambitious plans to build on this, particularly as the Borough is the focal point of the U.K.’s 2012 Olympic bid. Having a committed, reliable and value-conscious software partner who shares our vision and is able to support us in our programme of transformation is critical, and Microsoft has proven to be the provider of choice on all these fronts. I am excited at the potential of this partnership to take technology to a new level in driving better, more cost-effective services for our citizens in Newham and across the country.”

A statement from Microsoft and Newham said:”During the 12-week assessment, Capgemini compared costs, business benefits and risk profiles of a Microsoft solution comprising Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Office System on the desktop and Microsoft Windows Server 2003. The evaluations led the Borough to choose a Microsoft solution over an Open Source alternative as its best overall value option”

Terry Smith, Senior Director of Microsoft’s Public Sector group, said: “We welcome the opportunity that Government evaluations of competing products offer us to prove the value and interoperability that Microsoft products offer. Naturally, were delighted with Newham Councils findings, and we look forward to continuing to help all levels of Government address their needs in a manner that delivers real value to the Government and its citizens.”

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