The city of Amsterdam has become the latest high-profile public sector organisation to evaluate the potential of open-source software.
Two departments within the city authority will spend a total of €300,000 (£202,000) in 2007 evaluating Linux on the desktop. The organisation is keen to reduce its dependence on monopoly suppliers, and sees the trial as a means of evaluating alternatives.
"A business case has been established this year which shows that an open software strategy leads to more supplier independence," the authority said in a statement. "The use of open software can ensure better exchange of data and storage of information without unacceptable financial or logistical risks."
Amsterdam said it did not intend to stop using Microsoft software entirely, but expected to spend less on proprietary software. It said in its statement: "It is not the intention to entirely phase out closed-source software. However, it is expected that the new contract with Microsoft will be smaller."
Amsterdam's current contract with Microsoft expires at the end of 2008, while its open-source tests are due to be completed within the first half of this year. The two trial departments will be the housing department and a borough office. Other departments will follow suit if the trial is successful, the council said.
Nine other cities in the Netherlands are also evaluating open-source software and have — together with Amsterdam — signed a manifesto on how they will proceed. They include The Hague, Eindhoven and Groningen. The Dutch government is funding the research through a three-year-old programme focused on supplier independence and interoperability.
Outside the Netherlands, several of Europe's largest cities are trialling Linux.
Austria's capital city, Vienna, has embarked on an ambitious Red Hat desktop rollout. And Munich has transferred 100 users to the Debian configuration. It plans to migrate 80 percent of its PCs to Linux by the middle of 2009.
But other public sector projects have not been so successful.
In the UK, Birmingham City Council spent over half a million pounds on evaluating Linux before abandoning the project earlier this year. Birmingham said it was cheaper to upgrade its systems to Windows XP.