There are many reasons to switch to a Linux desktop from Windows. Better security; not having to worry over possible built-in privacy leaks; and, last but never least, Linux is cheaper... a lot cheaper.
That's the big reason why the Gendarmerie, which with the Police Nationale, serves France as a national police force, has been slowly, but surely moving to a customized version of Ubuntu Linux, from Windows XP.
In an European Union report for government administrators, Major Stéphane Dumond of the French Home Office is reported to have said at the Evento Linux conference that, "Using an open-source desktop lowers the total cost of ownership (TCO) by 40 percent in savings on proprietary software licenses and by reducing costs on IT management. Using Ubuntu Linux massively reduces the number of local technical interventions."
In 2010, Jean-Pascal Chateau, the Commandant of La Gendarmerie Nationale, said of the project: “We weren’t experiencing technical problems, but financial ones. For the same amount of work, yielding the same results, we realized that Windows would cost us €2 million more than Ubuntu every year.”
Today, the Gendarmerie has deployed 37,000 Ubuntu Linux desktops. By summer of 2014, all 72,000 PCs are expected to be switched to Ubuntu. According to Dumond, this may be Europe's and possibly the world's largest example of a government agency using open source software on desktops.
Drumond may well be correct. Munich Germany, in a well-known move, also switched to Linux for its desktops, but it only has 14,000 desktops. Companies, such as Google and Oracle, probably use even more Linux desktops internally, but they're not revealing their exact number of desktops.
Besides the great TCO, the Genarmerie also appreciates the costs saving from being independent from commercial software vendors. "This is priceless," said Drumond. The desktop migration allowed the Gendarmerie to restructure the IT organization, saving time, human resources and money.
Using Linux on desktops allows the police force to control costs when deploying new technologies. "It is a risk, but a controlled risk, counterbalanced by the lower service costs," said Drumond.
In his presentation, Drumond also pointed out that the "Direct benefits (license costs) are only the tip of the iceberg (PDF Link). The force is also saving money with Linux's easier management and a " Huge decrease of local technical interventions on Ubuntu's desktops."
Moving to Ubuntu from XP wasn't easy, Drumond admitted, but the ongoing cost-savings made the transition more than worthwhile.