At a press conference on Monday, Newham Council announced it is rolling out Microsoft software across its whole IT infrastructure. It will use Microsoft operating systems and applications in its core operations, and its social services department will also run Windows XP Tablet Edition 2004 on tablet PCs.
"Our development of efficient IT is crucial to the council and our partnership with Microsoft allows the council to reduce IT costs and still deliver Newham residents excellent services," said Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham.
Newham Social Services hopes to increase the quality of social care and reduce the time and costs involved with the process by using tablet PCs. The systems will be introduced over the next 12 to 18 months.
"Tablet PCs enable us to reduce the paperwork associated with Social Services administration and free up five to six hours of administration time as a result," said Charmaine Wiggins of Newham Social Services.
Wiggins explained that the present process involves a 25-page form that has to be carted around between a local citizen's home and head office before care can be authorised. Tablet PCs will allow the subject to agree to the proposed care on the spot, and sign this consent.
If the trial is successful, tablets will be "deployed widely", according to Wiggins.
Microsoft is quietly confident that Newham's decision will pave the way for other London Councils to consider adopting a Microsoft partnership in favour of open-source variants, such as Linux.
"Newham is a milestone for engaging with local government and they [Newham] share Microsoft values of innovation, leadership and vision," said Terry Smith, senior director of public sector at Microsoft UK.
"Microsoft is making a long-term commitment to local government and Newham are a big part of that," he said.
Last year Newham Council trialled a Linux desktop offering earlier this year, but eventually chose to stick with Microsoft.
It has been alleged that Newham Council examined Linux in order to force Microsoft to lower its bid, a strategy some have dubbed 'doing a Newham.' However, Richard Steel, head of ICT at Newham, denied allegations of dirty tricks.