Sales in areas such as education may shine a light on what is expected to be a dark 2009, but resellers say a box-builder alliance to offer open-source software is needed to provide more choice and cut costs.
Lee Bevan, managing director of Westhoughton-based reseller Leapfrog AVIT, has called for an industry alliance to provide hardware to schools without the pre-installed proprietary software that is often included.
Bevan said pre-installing proprietary software packages on hardware sold into the education market gives proprietary software an unfair advantage.
And schools that wish to choose different software can end up paying twice.
“First they have to pay for the software already included. Then they have to pay to uninstall it and install the academic software they really want,” he said.
An alliance of system builders could create economies of scale that would help open-source-derived software compete more effectively against vendors such as Microsoft, according to Bevan.
“Just about every laptop you buy has a [proprietary] software licence key already on it,” he said. “Tax payers’ money is going to waste.”
A typical Leapfrog AVIT school might want 30 laptops. OEMs supply them through the reseller, all with Windows XP or Vista, for example, pre-loaded at £60 to £70 per licence, Bevan said.
John Spencer, head of the education division at Weybridge-based Sirius Corporation, said things are improving, but an OEM alliance could help.
“There have been a couple of changes this year,” he said. “Schools can now license the number of machines they want to use.
Previously, if they had any single machine running Microsoft Office, they had to license every machine for it.”
Government support for open source is on the increase. Spencer said this is
great news for resellers such as Sirius, which successfully tendered for
government education agency Becta’s new Software for Educational Institutions
in September this year.
Sirius also applied for a place on the government’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme for IT spend in education.
“But it is effectively a closed circle of subcontractors,” said Spencer.
BSF contractors delegate to their own subcontractors, so the technology provided tends to be from their vendors, making for an unintentionally homogeneous environment in schools. “And it is just so difficult to do the tendering.”
Open-source support is actually cheaper, claimed Spencer.
Organisations have often avoided open-source software, believing that administrators need a high level of skill. But that is no longer true, he added.
“It is just a bit of fear, uncertainty and doubt. We always say that OpenOffice version 3.0 is more similar to Microsoft Office 2003, for example, which people see as the standard, easier-to-use version, than it is to Microsoft Office 2007.”
However, Simon Barclay, education technical consultant at education reseller Ramesys, disagreed.
“Schools do have the choice, if they look for it,” he said. “But it scares people, because they see open source generally as totally different to what they use now.”
Schools do not necessarily see a switch to open source as convenient or easy,
although they do use a lot of open-source software for specific applications
already, he added. And when students enter the workplace, most will be working
Some proprietary vendors, including Microsoft, offer preferential pricing to schools, “And open source requires too many specialists,” said Barclay.
Also, some hardware vendors already offer naked or Linux-based machines, Barclay pointed out.
Becta had not replied to a request for comment when CRN went to press.
Security firm set to become part of acquisitive Shearwater Group
Distributor merges three northern sites into one new hub in Warrington
Activist investor puts forward five director candidates as turmoil continues at security giant
Nima Green asks what is driving public cloud uptake in Germany