French MPs choose Linux over Windows

Starting this summer, French MPs will be conducting parliamentary business on Linux-based PCs running Ubuntu.

When French MPs and their assistants return from their summer break this June, they will conduct parliamentary business on PCs running Ubuntu. From the next session of parliament, 1,154 desks will feature the Linux-based PCs.

At the time of the latest IT refresh for parliamentary assistants, France's parliament, the National Assembly, decided to switch from Windows to Linux, allowing the 577 MPs to switch to non-proprietary software for the first time.

The tender was won by IT services company Linagora, an open-source specialist, and Unilog. The Mandriva distro was mentioned in several documents under consideration but was eventually dropped.

As well as using the Ubuntu distro, the MPs and their assistants will also use Firefox, OpenOffice and Mozilla's messaging client Thunderbird, and other tailored applications.

The project has been defended by MPs Richard Cazenave and Bernard Carayon of the UMP party, who have put forward certain advantages of open-source software, such as the reduced cost of public IT equipment and the transfer of added value to French and European users.

Before taking its decision, the Assembly hired Atos Origin to undertake a study into the matter, which concluded "open-source solutions now offer functionality adapted to the needs of MPs and will allow the realization of substantial economies despite certain installation and training costs". It's thought the budget for switching from Windows to Linux is in the region of €80,000 (US$105,320).

The French lower house is already using open-source software elsewhere in its IT systems, including Apache Web server and the Mambo content management system. The MPs' move to open source is the first concerning a switch of operating system--previous initiatives have been more focused on servers (such as the agriculture ministry), OpenOffice (such as the gendarmerie) or Firefox (such as the French tax office).

Christophe Guillemin of ZDNet France reported from Paris.