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On Windows on the continent
Simon Moores pondered whether the growing Unix culture in the European public sector could have any impact on local government in the UK.
There is a tendency to talk about "local government" as if it is an amorphous mass with all its elements broadly facing and sharing the same problems. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is a vast range of structures composing local government, from the mightiest city council to the most humble rural authority. On closer examination of the smaller local authorities, it is not surprising IT is poorly developed. One reason is the gross lack of money and another is because the usual approach by government is to set objectives - in this case for e-government - for which no real money is made available.
If many local authorities have poorly developed IT infrastructures, a fresh look is needed for how they will be expected to arrive at fully integrated e-government status by 2005.
There are two broad routes to designing systems: the Microsoft route and the open source route. By going down the Microsoft route a local authority will need to spend more money on Microsoft software than on any other aspect of the project, possibly more than 50% of the total cost.
If the open source route is chosen it is possible to achieve a satisfactory solution to meet government objectives at a significant cost saving, which could then be used on hardware spend.
It is reasonable to suppose the open source approach will have a significant appeal to many local authority finance directors (borough treasurers) as they try to once again "square the circle".
It is quite easy to see why Munich has taken the decision to migrate its 14,000 desktops to Linux. The move will be equally appealing to borough treasurers in the UK with only a few hundred desktops. All that is required is the right solution to meet functionality and financial needs.
Nick Ashburner, Intellidata
I find it surprising that co-existence of Windows and Linux should be newsworthy. In this "either/or" polarised modern society, I have watched amazed as zealots from each camp have trumpeted their own prejudicial fanfares.
And all the time I have been dual-booting and sharing files between Windows and Linux on my home PC. Why are corporations and public bodies unable to see the benefits to be derived from both systems? A Linux monopoly is as undesirable as a Microsoft one. Disregarding the questions on business morality, products and companies will stagnate without competition.
I like to use the best tool for a particular job. We have never had a venomous warfare between the "traditionalist" slotted and "modernist" cross-headed screwdriver users.
And why is Microsoft so anti-Linux? I would love to be able to buy Microsoft Office for Linux, after all, you can buy it for MacOS. Internet Explorer has even toppled Netscape as the browser of choice on the Mac (although I use Opera for Linux, Mac and Windows). Microsoft could even use its corporate muscle to create a world-beating Linux distribution with Windows interoperability already built in.
Computer users and Microsoft have both had a wake-up call. There is now greater choice than ever before. Users can choose from one or the other, or both. The best news is that once users start to explore the different options, the versatility and power of computers will be made available to them.
So wake up Gates and Ballmer. You are in danger of putting all your eggs in one basket. The "any colour you like, as long as it's black" mentality died with Henry Ford.