If the French National Assembly gets its way, the open-source Linux operating system will take over the governments of Europe, seizing on a weak economy to displace Windows.
About 18 months ago, the Assembly shifted from running Windows on the 1,100 computers of its members and their assistants to running a version of Linux called Ubuntu. According to Rudy Salles, vice president of the assembly, the decision to abandon Microsoft’s Windows software was both an economic and political gesture.
The French Parliament should save about 500,000 euros over the next five years, thanks to the low price of Ubuntu –- free –- and have lower management costs. Linux tends to have fewer security issues than Windows, for example.
Politically, the European Union has proved tougher than the United States in its legal objections to Microsoft’s dominance over the operating system market. In addition, there’s a rising notion that backing Linux could lead to more local jobs, because local companies can try to disrupt the market by undercutting Microsoft on price and offering services to install and manage Linux for businesses.
“We have tried to convince the government that investing in open-source is good for the local economy,” said Alexandre Zapolsky, the chief executive of Linagora, the French software services company that helped install Ubuntu at the Parliament. “If we try to play by the same rules as the U.S. companies, we will not be able to win a bright future. We have to change the rules.”
Mr. Zapolsky also complains that French companies doing business with Microsoft help other countries more than France.
“At the end of the day, Microsoft does not pay taxes in France,” he said. “They pay the lower taxes through Microsoft Ireland.”
With economic woes sweeping through Europe, Mr. Salles says he believes France can offer a cheaper model for other countries to follow.
“We’re quite happy because it’s all working very well now,” Mr. Salles said. “We see that many countries are interested in our experience, and so we’ll try to help the other parliaments around the world.”
According to Mr. Salles, a survey polling members of the French Assembly found that 80 percent of the members were happy with the new software, which included new e-mail and office applications, while 14 percent felt Windows should return.
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