Will City of Light become city of Linux?<br> <br>PARIS The open-source computer system known as Linux won a tough battle over Microsoft earlier this year when the city of Munich decided to change the operating software of 14,000 government computers, despite the personal intervention of Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive.<br>.<br>Now, it is the city of Paris that is in the sights of the open-source software camp, which has emerged as the only serious competitive threat against Microsoft's 90-plus percent hold on the world market for computer operating systems.<br>.<br>Factors of cost, security and a reluctance to be beholden to a single American software vendor have led governments in Europe and elsewhere to take a hard look at open software like Linux, which is freely modified and shared over the Internet.<br>.<br>Paris's decision on whether to embrace Linux could come as soon as this month and have an impact on the way the rest of Europe swings.<br>.<br>"Munich has been a poster child for Linux," said Philip Carnelley, software research director in the London office of Ovum, a technology consultancy. "I am not sure Paris will quite take on that role, but if Paris goes for open source, it is going to be very significant.<br>.<br>"If Paris and Munich do it, it starts to look like a trend, doesn't it? It will have resonance across Europe, part of a general feeling of snowballing, which could have big impact on Europe and really globally as well," he said.<br>.<br>In question is the future of more than 15,000 Windows-based PCs and servers used by the French capital's administration.<br>.<br>Unilog, a French consulting company, was expected to submit a feasibility study on open-source deployment in Paris to the government on Tuesday, with the administration to make a decision soon after, people familiar with the study said. A Unilog spokeswoman said the company could not make any public comment about its work for the city of Paris.<br>.<br>On the strength of an earlier Unilog study, Munich agreed in May to migrate its 14,000 workstations to Linux systems put together by Suse Linux, a German company that is now a subsidiary of Novell, the U.S. software company.<br>.<br>In France, some government agencies have already started doling out contracts to a Paris-based vendor of Linux hardware and software, MandrakeSoft.<br>.<br>Windows still dominates corporate and government desktop computers in Europe by far. But growth in demand for Linux servers in Europe is expected to almost double by 2008, the consulting and research firm International Data Corp. said.<br>.<br>Microsoft is fighting back by cutting prices and through publicity campaigns that claim that open-source software is actually more expensive to run and maintain.<br>.<br>In Europe, particularly when it comes to public-sector contracts, "ultimately, it is not an economic decision, it is a political one, and there is not much Microsoft can do about that other than try to be charming," said Carnelley at Ovum.<br>.<br>Officially, Microsoft has a black eye in Europe. It is currently appealing the European Commission's March ruling that Microsoft abused its dominant market position.<br>.<br>But in addition to fighting off an image as a monopolist, Microsoft needs to convince governments that the company helps European economies by creating jobs and business for software developers.<br>.<br>Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin of France in May said during a radio show interview that he wanted the French government to move to use open-source software for intergovernmental communications.<br>.<br>The French government is in the process of upgrading some 900,000 computers. But the work is being contracted out piecemeal, with different government agencies each having the power to make their own decisions.<br>.<br>So far, Microsoft is behind. In the past six months, three major French governmental departments - the ministries of culture, agriculture and equipment - have awarded contracts to MandrakeSoft, which went bankrupt after the Internet bubble burst but has made a comeback and shown a profit in the past year.<br>.<br>Should the city of Paris decide to seek a Linux vendor, MandrakeSoft would be among the contenders, its president, Jacques Le Marois, said. Red Hat and Novell, the two companies analysts say hold the most market share in Europe for Linux software, are also expected to bid.<br>.<br>But Microsoft is fighting to prevent the shift. According to French press reports, it has offered to drop its prices by 57 percent if Paris stays with Microsoft products. Other media reports said Microsoft offered large discounts to convince the borough of Newham, England last August that it should not go with an open-source alternative, and Newham stayed with Microsoft.<br>.<br>Asked for specifics on the price discounts to Paris and Newham, the U.S. software giant responded in writing that "Microsoft and its customers do not divulge the financial details of any particular agreements."<br>.<br>It went on to say that "Newham's choice of technology was based on a number of factors - such as risk, integration and migration - not just cost."<br>.<br>The company declined to discuss its talks with the city of Paris.<br>.<br>Microsoft recently appointed a new executive, Ashim Pal, to persuade customers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa to choose its technology platform over open-source alternatives.<br>.<br>Pal said that even when governments consider open source an option, it is rare that they have Microsoft disengage completely.<br>.<br>And, he said, Microsoft has sometimes been asked to take back business after projects that attempted to use Linux technologies - like one in Turku, Finland - failed.<br>.<br>Microsoft also believes it is scoring points through its "shared source program," which allows governments to view the internal computer programming for Windows.<br>.<br>The program has calmed government fears that it is hiding secrets within its source code and has made them feel more secure about using its products, said Jonathan Murray, chief technology officer for Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa.<br>.<br>Last month, Microsoft announced it would additionally offer more than 60 governments and international organizations the option of viewing the proprietary code for the latest version of its Office software, including the Outlook e-mail program, Microsoft Word and Excel spreadsheet application.<br>.<br>"The number one issue in Europe is interoperability," Murray said about how software and hardware from different companies work together. "Allowing scrutiny of how Office source code interfaces to other applications" should help Microsoft's position in Europe, he said.<br>.<br>Nonetheless, government bodies of varying sizes have begun examining or implementing open-source systems.<br>.<br>The city of Vienna is considering replacing Windows with Linux for its 15,000 desktops. The city has said it may start switching computers over to Linux through 2007 to assess the system.<br>.<br>Berlin is currently discussing using Linux in one of its districts, although "a decision for the whole city is not intended in the near future," according to Karl-Heinz Löper, head of the Information Technology Competence Center for Berlin.<br>.<br>Elsewhere in Germany, 11,000 police computers are being switched from Microsoft Windows this year in the state of Lower Saxony.<br>.<br>Linux companies also have been awarded contracts for a division of the German Finance Ministry, the German Commissioner for Data Protection, German Air Traffic Control, the Higher Court of Düsseldorf and Schwäbisch Hall, a city of 36,000 that is building its entire information technology infrastructure on Suse Linux, replacing a Windows installation.<br>.<br>In Denmark, the Ministry of Finance has implemented an open-source project instead of Microsoft's BizTalk Server to simplify data transfer between its systems and those of other Danish ministries.<br>.<br>And Bergen, Norway's second-largest city, said it would shift from Unix and Microsoft Windows applications platform to Novell's Linux technology, affecting 50,000 users of the city's administrative and educational networks.<br><br>++++++++<br>Trend on the way...<br>to the U.S.? I'm a part of those concerned w/change.<br>Seems the majority just want plug and play though, forget about learning a new language, that's 'unAmerican' right?<br><br>Ha, MS suckaz! Enjoy the joke of an OS while you can.<br><br>Wisdom no longer comes with age, have ya noticed?
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