The French government will install open-source software on desktops as part of Project Adele, a plan to computerise much of the country's administration by 2007.
The administration will migrate a significant number of its desktops to open-source operating systems and application software, said Jacques Sauret, director of the French Agency for the Development of the Electronic Administration.
Almost all the French government's desktop PCs run some version of Microsoft Windows, with just 1% or 2% running an operating system, Sauret said.
Introducing open-source software will give the government experience in managing competing suppliers, and allow better evaluattion of the interoperability and comparative lifecycle costs of the different systems.
The government wants to spend a higher proportion of its IT budget on integration and innovation, which means spending less on software licences, he said.
By introducing open-source software to the desktop, the government hoped to reduce the cost of its proprietary systems by beating Microsoft down on price. At the moment, each department negotiates its own price with the company.
Peter Sayer writes for IDG News Service