Singapore's Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) has large-scale plans for deploying OpenOffice.org on Windows PCs, a MINDEF spokeswoman told ZDNet UK on Tuesday.
"MINDEF has already installed the OpenOffice productivity suite on 5,000 desktop computers," said the spokeswoman. "We hope to deploy OpenOffice on 20,000 desktop computers by the end of March 2006."
MINDEF's deployment to OpenOffice.org is believed to be one of the biggest by any government agency.
The spokewoman said the ministry is not migrating to OpenOffice.org -- instead OpenOffice.org will coexist with Microsoft Office 97 on PCs running Windows XP.
The decision was made to increase user choice and save costs, according to the spokeswoman. "This is part of our plan to create more choices in productivity suites for our users," she said. "With our limited budget, we are always exploring opportunities to maximise the value for every dollar spent."
She said the ministry may switch from Windows XP to Linux in the future, although there are no concrete plans at present.
Fabrice Marie, the vice-president of the Linux Users Group of Singapore, told ZDNet UK that this was the biggest rollout of open-source software in Singapore, although other government agencies including the National Library Board and the National Trades Union Congress have used Linux.
He said MINDEF's decision to deploy OpenOffice.org is important and is likely to influence other government ministries. "It is very significant and will hopefully push other ministries to follow their track," said Marie.
John McCreesh, who helps to run the marketing for OpenOffice.org, said this decision shows mounting interest in the open-source productivity application.
"There is a growing trend in governments to move to OpenOffice.org. Concerns about money and open standards have meant there is increasing interest in it," said McCreesh.
Michael Meeks, an OpenOffice.org developer, said that cost is not the only issue -- the fact that OpenOffice.org has been translated into numerous languages also helps.
OpenOffice.org is available all four of Singapore's official languages: English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil, according to the native language section of the OpenOffice.org site. Office 2003 is only available in English and Chinese, according to the Microsoft Web site.
This is not OpenOffice.org's first big success in Asia -- in China, OpenOffice.org is sold under the NeoShine brand, which McCreesh claims recently made it onto the preferred list for government office productivity products.
The City of Munich is due to migrate 14,000 PCs to OpenOffice.org and Linux by 2008. The City of Bergen, in Norway, is also due to migrate desktops in its 100 schools, which have 32,000 students and pupils.
Paris' administration was considering migrating 17,000 PCs, but stepped back mid October, saying that the move would mean significant additional costs without improving the service.