The European Commission has issued a ringing endorsement of open source software, producing a confidence-boost for businesses considering the deployment of Linux and other free software.
In a lengthy report into business deployments of open source software, published in full late last week, a group of academics commissioned by the EC said that in "almost all cases" savings would be made by switching from proprietary to open source software.
The bold findings come in stark contrast to assertions by Microsoft that Linux savings are a myth.
The work is based on detailed analysis of open source projects in six European Union countries.
"Our findings show that, in almost all cases, a transition towards open source [produces] savings in the long term cost of ownership," said the report, which was authored by academics at the United Nations University in Maastricht, Netherlands.
Microsoft has attempted to persuade IT professionals and businesses that Windows can be cheaper than Linux, though its Get The Facts campaign. Get The Facts cited examples where Microsoft's software had offered a cost advantage over open source software.
The EC report also issued encouragement for organisations considering the free Open Office applications suite. "Open Office has all the functionalities that public offices need to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations," the report said. "Open Office is free and extremely stable." It added that users were as productive with Open Office as they were with proprietary software.
But the report issued two notes of caution. Firstly, it said that short term costs would be higher for organisations migrating, even partially, to open source, largely because of the initial cost of training. Secondly it said some workers may feel undervalued if they are required to work with free software.
The European Commission has taken several strides towards encouraging the development of open source software.
In October, it granted €3m (£2m) towards a project, called SQO-OSS, to test the quality of open source software. And just days before, the Commission extended its open source web portal, the Open Source Observatory, to develop interoperability between applications.