You don't have to be a Linux fanatic to give three cheers to Birmingham Council. Three cheers because the council's decision to proceed with a trial of open-source software- even though an independent report said it was the cheaper option - is gratifying for three reasons.
Firstly, it's great to any organisation resist the blandishments of Microsoft (and the cash discounts available to local authorities) and stick to its guns. No-one's pretending that open-source software has all the answers and will always be the best option, but the lack of will by various councils to even explore the option has left a bad taste in the mouth. Secondly, competition is in everyone's best interest: Microsoft already has a near monopoly in the market and it's never a good thing for an organisation to be tied into one supplier.
Finally, and most important of all, it's pleasing to see an organisation look beyond the short-term, beyond that quarter, beyond that financial year and look into the future. I'm too often left with the impression that given a choice between saving £100,000 next year or £1,000 this year, organisations will invariably plump for the latter. Glynn Evans and his colleagues are to be congratulated at looking beyond a short-term fix. Evans is blunt that this is about the future: "There is no doubt that start-up costs for this project would be high due to the level of requirement, the level of Linux expertise within BCC and the complex requirements of the library service for the public desktop," he said. "The positives centre on future costs."
The lack of interest (or what some people might call the cowardice) of other organisations could learn from Evans's forward-thinking. In five years' time, Birmingham might still be a Microsoft-dominated organisation but at least it will have explored the options- would that other bodies thought the same.
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