Paris city authority hedges bets on Linux move

The city of Paris intends to reduce its dependence on software suppliers with “de facto monopolies,” but considers an immediate switch of its 17,000 desktops to open source software too costly, it said Wednesday.

Elected officials met Tuesday to receive and discuss a report on the economics of migrating to open source software, commissioned from IT consulting company Unilog SA.

One scenario presented in the report, a total and immediate switch to open source, was ruled out as being inappropriate given the aging state of many of the city’s computers. In addition, the high cost of such a move would produce no improvement in service. Officials instead accepted the report’s recommendation of a gradual opening of the city’s IT systems to alternative suppliers.

They decided the city should be prepared to take control of its own software development, and should reduce its dependence on individual IT suppliers, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the deputy mayor responsible for administration, Francois Dagnaud.

The city plans to equip more of its staff with computers, and to modernize and standardize its systems, many of which were identified in a 2001 audit as being already obsolete. Interoperability and compatibility between open-source and proprietary systems will weigh heavily in the choices the city makes, the statement said.

The decisions reaffirm a strategy set in 2001 of making the city authority’s IT systems less dependent on suppliers with de facto monopolies, the statement said. Although Dagnaud did not name any monopolistic suppliers in the statement, Microsoft Corp. is clearly feeling targeted, firing off a swift response to journalists accompanied by an English translation of the statement.

“While Microsoft cannot comment on the ongoing discussions with the government, Microsoft continues to work closely with the administration of the city of Paris to explore ways that they can take benefit of Microsoft’s flexible licensing framework for public sector,” a company representative wrote in an e-mail to a reporter.

The city budgeted US$197 million to spend on its computer systems between 2004 and 2007, and officials are still committed to that plan. However, with falling tax receipts and increasing demand on services from its inhabitants, the city is under pressure to justify every cent it spends.

By diversifying its IT suppliers, the city intends to get the best service for the best price, the statement said.

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