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Politics Government Software Linux

Los Angeles to Consider Open Source Software 324

lientz writes "According to an article at FederalComputerWeek, the city of Los Angeles is considering using Open Source software as a cost cutting measure. From the article: " officials could save $5.2 million by switching to OpenOffice... rather than purchasing a Microsoft Office product at $200 per license for 26,000 desktops. The savings would go to a special fund to hire more employees for the police department, a major focus for city officials right now, he added.""
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Los Angeles to Consider Open Source Software

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  • Heh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 12, 2005 @02:35PM (#11652915)
    Now watch microsoft drop that price from 200$ to 10$....

    I can just smell it on the air.

    • Re: Heh (Score:5, Funny)

      by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @02:39PM (#11652957)

      > Now watch microsoft drop that price from 200$ to 10$....

      I don't know about that. I called a press conference and announced that I was going to play Doom instead of Age of Empires, and I didn't get one red cent out of the cheap bastards.

    • Re:Heh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by goon america ( 536413 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @02:40PM (#11652980) Homepage Journal
      No, just watch a swarm of Microsoft lobbyists descend upon the city, donating enough to local politicians to equal the amount they would save in the city budget by switching to Open Office. This solves the real problem for both parties, which for the politicos is not the city budget but the campaign budget, and for Microsoft is not profits but control.
      • Re:Heh (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheGavster ( 774657 )
        Microsoft is really all about the profits. If you can get a million in sales with a quarter mill of lobby money, its a smart move. Of course, this goes for any business (even the not-evil ones)
      • Re:Heh (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Master Bait ( 115103 )
        When will those politicians learn to take Microsoft's money and then go right ahead and get open source software in spite?
      • This solves the real problem for both parties

        What about the other party involved, you know, the one which pays taxes? This kind of action hurts society because the funds which would have gone to hire more police, etc. are now donations to be pocketed by politicians. Kind of reminds me of the Roman Empire.

    • ...due to costs associated with license administration and the risk of fines resulting from audits that find that the licenses were improperly administered. If it takes a bunch of man-hours to track the licenses and ensure compliance, the cost of those man-hours goes into the total cost of ownership. Those costs are avoided (usually) with free-as-in-beer software.

      Or I could be wrong, and MS would grant a low-cost blanket license.
    • Nope, this is what's in the air [].
    • Re:Heh (Score:2, Insightful)

      by oskard ( 715652 )
      I bet MS will just create another study explaining why Linux is, in reality, a more expensive alternative to Windows. Same thing with OpenOffice to Office.

      I don't exactly buy it, but I can see how training and technical support are necessary yet costly in the work environment.
      • Re:Heh (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rhone ( 220519 )
        Except the whole TCO crap is not an issue for an office suite the way that it could be for an OS. No one needs high-priced experts to administer OpenOffice for them. It is a drop-in replacement for MS Office, as long as you don't need perfect compatibility with MS Office formats.
        • And as long as you don't mind fixing various bugs when upgrading from OO 1.1.2 to 1.1.3. I don't use OO myself (I typeset my reports/notes/articles in LaTeX, and create short notes in Abiword), but I heard many stories of funny errors in OO. Yes, you need a professional to implement OO in the office.
        • I disagree. A major plus for Office in corporate environments is the fact you can configure it easily through group policies. Unless OpenOffice has a similar system which mysteriously provides its own low-cost trained admins, then there will still be a hell of an admin cost.

          Of course, the fact it doesn't also cost $200 a seat is a big pro for OO.
        • Re:Heh (Score:3, Informative)

          by NanoGator ( 522640 )
          "as long as you don't need perfect compatibility with MS Office formats."

          That's actually the reason we didn't use OO at my previous job. It wasn't so much a problem adopting it internally, but we communicated with outside people as well. (This was two years ago, though. Not sure if it's still true today.)

          TCO could actually matter in the case of "I spent too much time trying to make this work with another person."
    • Now watch microsoft drop that price from 200$ to 10$.

      And Microsoft security will put feet on the street...

      Maybe Microsoft will offer the mayor a stock option...

  • Negotiating Ploy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mordors9 ( 665662 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @02:35PM (#11652919)
    It just sounds like a good way to get M$ to lower their licensing fees.
    • Re:Negotiating Ploy? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by killjoe ( 766577 )
      That's so cool. The idea that open source software will hurt the profitability of Microsofts monopoly products is the beauty of market forces at work.

      Unfortunately for MS this relentless downward pressure on their profitibility is not going to end and indeed will increase with time.

      Their stock price is already pretty much stagnant so I see no good reason for anybody to invest in MS stock if they are interested in growth.

      All around bad news for MS which means good news for everybody else.
  • Typical tactic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by null etc. ( 524767 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @02:36PM (#11652923)
    This is the typical tactic used by governments in order to get Microsoft running back to their doorsteps, courting them with low prices.

    There's nothing to see here, move along.

    • by Noksagt ( 69097 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @02:46PM (#11653018) Homepage
      The fact that Microsoft cowtows to tactics like this by lowering their prices gives legitimacy to If MS didn't view F/OSS as a viable thread, they wouldn't lower prices--they'd pull strong-arm tactics and say "yeah--good luck with that. When your migration fails, you can come back and give us the same deal as we are proposing now."

      Lowering prices not only validates OO.o as a useable alternative, but also proves that F/OSS is a truly disruptive technology--MS can't get away with charging what they want to anymore.
      • Excellent point

        And because it validates OO.o it also increases the chances OO.o will actually be chosen.
      • I agree, OO.o was the best thing I ever migrated to. Everyong I know was acting like "you can't do that, you'll come crawling back to M$FT" I switched about 8 months ago, and have since converted my office, my friend who runs a computer shop (he now fully endorses OSS, and OO.o, Firefox, and Thunderbird come with all of his new computers, unless a customer wants to have M$Orafice and pay the $200+). The town of North Hampton NH is looking into the migration as well, same with the town of Methuen MA. sure,
      • >The fact that Microsoft cowtows to tactics like this by lowering their prices gives legitimacy to

        The purchasers could have done this with any office suite. Its just that OO/OpenSource is the latest IT buzz word.

        Purchasers were doing this before OO was around. And they do it in many different industries.

        Writing up motions are nothing. Wake me up when they actually do something with OO.
      • Or they will just wait until Open Office is dead, and continue to develop their product further. As long as people don't really switch, they will have the cloud to continue on. The problem would be solved if the government would make open standards (for the files as well as the scripting language) REQUIRED for companies to deliver a product. It's not so much the program they use, it's what they save it in. OO.o would not amount to anything if it could not read word, but MS is now patenting their document fo
    • Re:Typical tactic (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bkzitalsux ( 858845 )
      This story ws covered on NPR last week (at least in the LA area). The reporter explained to the clueless what OSS was and the benefit of putting more cops on the street with the money saved. She then moved on talk about the "TCO" of going OSS, as if the status quo had none. Evidently coached (or brainwashed or funded) by MS or the reseller for the city.

      I'd be amazed if LA were to switch. Pleased, but amazed.
  • by Space_Soldier ( 628825 ) <> on Saturday February 12, 2005 @02:37PM (#11652939)
    I would rather have more police officers than Microsoft Office licences. If the federal government did this, I wonder how many FBI agents, CIA agents, NSA agents, radiation-proof suits, and other goodies could be bought!
    • Remember, these are Los Angeles police officers. Do you really want more of those?
  • - The government is the one that allows the existance of propietary software, and the first to damage Free Software (For example, with software patents).
    - The government profits from Free Software
    - Instead of giving part of that profit to HELP FREE SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT, it's given to other government-dependant institutions.

    No intention to flame, but, how is this a good thing?

    • First, the State govt is not who deals with software patents and outrageous copyrights...although they have much more influence on the Feds than any OSS fans could ever hope for.

      The real goal of govt "profits" for patents and such is to benifit the public...the State using OSS is a prime example of that technology comming back to benifit everybody. The state's interest is in benifiting people...not generating some kind of cash flow! If the state can do the same work with OSS and not have to pay a privat

    • the use of open source software in large organisations (5.2M / 200 is a lot of licences) means 26000 people (thats a lot of people, did i work that out wrong) will get their first taste of free software, and perhaps some workers will think "hmmm, i'l get rid of that illegal copy of ms office at home and get open office since its legally free"

      also, more mindshare = more developers

  • by bigtallmofo ( 695287 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @02:38PM (#11652955)
    This is great that there's another announcement of a government agency considering OSS. Hopefully this one isn't a ploy to get cost concessions from Microsoft like so many other announcements apparently have been.

    • Of course it is. A basic intro to game theory.

      Let's say the MS price is $50 mill, OO price $60 mill (including luser training, compatibility issue etc. etc. aka TCO).

      If that was the case, why should MS give a rebate? They wouldn't.

      Now let's the MS price is $50 mill, OO price $40 mill. Now they consider switching, MS comes in with a $35 mill offer.

      The key words here are credible threat. To make concessions, Microsoft must believe the threat is credible. That means that the cost is actually lower. So it i
    • If it is a real attempt to migrate, wonderful.

      If it is a blatant attempt to get Microsoft to lower their prices by threatening to move to a competitor, wonderful.

      Either way, gets press coverage. That's better advertising than they could buy otherwise.

      The more people hear about as an alternative to MSOffice, the better.
  • MS will lower their prices for the city gov't. there is no way they are paying full price. I'd be shocked if they payed more than $30 per license.
  • Macros (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tyleroar ( 614054 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @02:39PM (#11652972) Homepage
    Gordon Haff, a senior analyst and IT adviser at Illuminata, said business value should be the main concern in transitioning to an open-source environment. "The decision-making for the state or local or federal government could be essentially the same as for a corporation," Haff said. "Does it save money when all the costs [are] taken into account? And that includes conversion costs, retraining costs, perhaps costs of getting and writing or converting software that doesn't run on an open-source platform."

    That's a very good point. OpenOffice is great and all, but what if they have lots of macros written for the Office suite? Once OpenOffice has implemented compatibility with macros, there will be no reason to not switch. The other thing that occurred to me, is why do they feel like they have to upgrade? Why can't they stick with the version they have?
    • The other thing that occurred to me, is why do they feel like they have to upgrade? Why can't they stick with the version they have?

      One way software companies keep the "herd" in check is by introducing new features in such a way that it changes the file format, even if those features aren't used. That way, people that wouldn't otherwise upgrade would feel compelled to do so to read those files sent by people that own the new version.
    • Just because you find yourself locked into a vendor that does not mean you should just give up and bend over.

      If these guys have locked themselves into office by using macros that's too bad. But they don't have to throw up their hands get reamed by MS every two years.
    • but what if they have lots of macros written for the Office suite?

      Let's say that they hire 5 programmers solely to translate macros: That's -- what? $400K And when they're not translating macros, they can be producing new functionality.

      why do they feel like they have to upgrade? Why can't they stick with the version they have?

      Microsoft likes to push upgrades. Newer versions are vaguely (or noticably) incompatible with older version (the worst case was word 97 (or was it 95) which was downright host

  • by AfterSchoolSpecial ( 822854 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @02:44PM (#11653000)
    "The savings would go to a special fund to hire more employees for the police department, a major focus for city officials right now."

    Steve B. (Or Bill G.): "You see, open source makes you less safe and secure than windows products...oh wait...crap."
  • by britneys 9th husband ( 741556 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @02:47PM (#11653027) Homepage Journal
    What does a cop make, about 52k/year or so? We need to start fighting fire with fire. Here's the new FUD we can start spreading against Microsoft:

    Through its licensing fee structure, Microsoft tried to take 100 police officers off the streets of Los Angeles.
  • by TykeClone ( 668449 ) * <> on Saturday February 12, 2005 @02:48PM (#11653041) Homepage Journal
    I'm on the city council of a (very) small town, and because of that I'm on a mailing list for an Iowa municipal issues magaizine. This month they had an article in it about reducing Microsoft licensing costs - by using the state purchasing power. No mention of Open Office or any other competitors.

    In Iowa, there are a few population centers, a few "larger towns", and many towns with low enough populations that they can run the entire municipal government with two or three employees. These are the kinds of places that don't have the built-in MS infrastructure and could migrate to OpenOffice fairly easily. Larger communities may have the infrastructure in place the makes it more difficult to migrate away from Microsoft.

    Seeing headlines that LA is thinking about going open source is interesting, but there might be thousands of other communities in the country that could see a proportionally greater benefit from that software than LA would - but they'd never make the news.

    • In Iowa, there are a few population centers, a few "larger towns", and many towns with low enough populations that they can run the entire municipal government with two or three employees. These are the kinds of places that don't have the built-in MS infrastructure and could migrate to OpenOffice fairly easily.

      The small towns will stay with Microsoft.

      They will see no reliable technical support, no significant training programs, no active, organized, open-source advocacy group within seventy-five miles.


      • I don't think that you'll see them dumping the windows OS, but I do think that OpenOffice would be a serious contender for the "standard" office suite in smaller communities. Communities like ours don't purchase multiple machines per year (we go multiple years per machine) and will typically just buy a system with the OEM Windows and Office installed. Ignoring office could be a good place to save money (at least during the year a new machine is purchased) that could just as well go to something else.


  • with 5.2 million.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ThomasFlip ( 669988 )
    you could hire people to make your own damn office sweet.
    • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Saturday February 12, 2005 @03:45PM (#11653438)
      You're right. But they don't have to pay to write one from scratch.

      That's a lot of money to pay for developers to add in any features/functionality that you want but does not exist in

      Save $2 or $3 million this election cycle and save even more next cycle.

      The best thing is, every year you can keep investing in development and still claim that you're saving $$millions$$ in license fees.

      And if you hire local programmers, you're also "creating good jobs".
  • communism (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DrIdiot ( 816113 ) 8&tid=109 Better watch out because L.A. is turning communist, according to Bill.
  • Pilot Program (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @02:56PM (#11653109) Homepage Journal
    Lets hope this spreads among other states too.

    We are tax payers, everyone write a NICE letter to their local representatives..

    Forget the simple "replace Microsoft.. they suck" angle, this sort of move saves money..
    • #1. Mandate that all official documents be in an open format (.pdf for example).

      #2. Mandate that all software used be able to save in that format, 100%, by default. (None of those bogus warnings from MSWord about saving in a different format and maybe losing your changes.)

      #3. Let the various ISV's compete on price / functionality / service for your governmental contracts while you rake in the savings.
  • by hankaholic ( 32239 ) on Saturday February 12, 2005 @03:03PM (#11653172)
    I'd like to see large organizations that realize a quantifiable savings due to the use of OSS contribute a small portion of the savings back to the projects that made it possible.

    If using OOooo.oOo could save them 5.2 million, how about a one-time gift of 5% of the annual savings to the project leaders? Saving a net of $4.94 million would still be a huge boost to the budget, and I'm sure that OOooO could benefit quite a bit from a one-time $260k donation.
    • I'd like to see the people in charge who save money by using open source get the bonus. Now thats a real incentive not to go w/ the status quo.

      If it suddenly becomes finacially incentive for the politicians to consider OSS, you're gonna be damned sure they will.
  • Well (Score:2, Informative)

    by simontek2 ( 523795 ) *
    I wonder if they will call me. I finally opened my shop. The Open Store
  • Ok, cities around the country are considering Open Source. Are there going to be any sort of vote for whether a city wants to switch? Government is in place for the people and if their money is being thrown away on software that can easily be replaced then I would say most people would be in favor. If it did come down to a vote, I would expect the majority of people to go with the more cost effective solution.
  • Short term, getting everybody roped into a subscription based model "locks" existing customers in.

    But now it shows up in the budget as "annual recurring costs" and not a one-time fixed cost.

    So this stuff comes up for dicussion every year during budget time. And... it looks pretty silly to be spending 5 million dollars on "clippy" a year when you can't afford enough police to protect the city.

    So now they HAVE to lower the cost of the product *and* governments are now aware of OpenOffice (which is free).
  • While I find this to be very exciting, I hope that they use SOME of the saved money to add to user support. They will need it for at least the first year or so until users/admins are familiar with the new systems.
  • As someone who's earned a good living writing computer software and managing software projects over the past 25 years, I'm outraged about this move to "Free Software".

    The Government wouldn't be able to get away with replacing other workers and contractors with unpaid volunteers--why should people who write software for a living be treated any differently?

    What's especially troubling is that this move is motivated by some off-beat political agenda that makes it unpopular to support American industry like

    • A quote one of your download pages:

      ""Simply the best freeware 3D anaglyph package" - James R. Turner, StereoViews newsletter"

      I find it strange that someone is denouncing OSS when they themselves develope and distribute freeware...

      You know, there are some people out there that have found a way to make money off of support software rather than making their customers pay through the nose for the sofware. If you ask me, thats pure capitalism.

  • From an earlier submission when the story first broke:

    On the heels of Austin, Munich, Vienna and entire countries e.g. in South America, LA City Councilmembers have unveiled plans for an extended transition to FOSS in their


    Despite the telling omission of "AND" in its caption, the statement actually does look beyond the " in beer" part of th

  • All the posts here seem to ignore a very simple fact. Microsoft Office is a great product, clearly superior to open source alternatives.

    I have OpenOffice and AbiWord installed on my machine and I tried other suites in the past (602, etc.) and Microsoft Office is still the best. It is faster, it has less bugs, it is more stable, it look better, it is more compatible, it has more powerful features (to say nothing about the powerful VBA support). I do admit that it has some badly designed dialogs and a number
  • if part of the saving went on funding OSS or programmers to help make the OSS more suitable to their needs.

    Embrace and extend as the saying goes.

Friction is a drag.