Singapore ministry offers open-source alternative

Singapore’s Ministry of Defence (MinDef) has moved away from a predominantly Microsoft Corp. desktop policy by installing the open-source OpenOffice productivity software on 5,000 desktop computers.

OpenOffice will not replace Microsoft Office 97 on those PCs but will exist alongside it, allowing users to choose which package to use, MinDef said in an e-mail reply to questions.

The move will be extended to all of MinDef’s 20,000 desktop PCs by March 2006. The addition of OpenOffice appears to rule out the possibility that MinDef will upgrade its Microsoft Office packages to a newer version such as Office 2003.

“With our limited budget, we are always exploring opportunities to maximize the value for every dollar spent,” MinDef said in its reply.

Possibly heralding a bigger move away from reliance on Microsoft, MinDef said it also plans to experiment with open source at the operating system level.

“We also intend to experiment with Linux desktops, but there are no concrete plans to replace the Microsoft Windows OS on the desktops at this point in time,” MinDef said.

Singapore is regarded as one of Microsoft’s best allies in the region, with the company solidly entrenched in the business, academic and government sectors.

Less developed Southeast Asian economies such as Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam have all begun to publicly encourage the use of Linux and open-source applications in preference to Microsoft products, from a desire to trim costs and to free themselves from what they perceive as dangerous reliance on a single U.S. company.

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