The French government will install open source software on the desktop as part of Project ADELE, a plan to computerise much of the country's administration by 2007, according to a government official.

The administration will migrate a significant number of its desktops to open source operating systems and application software, Jacques Sauret, director of the French Agency for the Development of the Electronic Administration, said at a recent meeting of the French IT and Telecoms Press Club.

Whether that significant number will be five percent, 10 percent, or 15 percent is still being debated.

Today, almost all the government's desktop PCs run some version of Microsoft Windows, with just one percent or two percent running an operating system from another West Coast company, according to Sauret. He declined to name the company.

Open-source advantages

Introducing open source software will give the government experience in managing competing suppliers, and allow it to better evaluate 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.

That means spending less on software licenses, so at the same time as introducing open source software to the desktop, the government hopes to reduce the cost of its proprietary systems by beating Microsoft down on price, according to Sauret. Currently, each department negotiates its own price with the company.

"Today, we're a captive market. We're going to engage in discussions with Microsoft to obtain a single tariff for the whole administration, to get economies of scale," Sauret said.