Walking in the footsteps of the German Police, the "Gendarmerie Nationale" - the French paramilitary police - announced the migration of up to 70,000 computers to Canonical's Linux distribution, Ubuntu. The shift will be done progressively.
Everything started in 2005, when the gendarmerie switched to open source office solutions. The next year, another step was taken towards adopting open source software, by choosing free Internet browsers.
A few years ago, Linux was mainly intended to computer geeks, but now things have changed. An average computer user can easily use a Linux distribution, such as Ubuntu. The 70,000 desktops owned by the gendarmerie currently use Microsoft Windows XP, but this will change progressively towards Ubuntu.
Colonel Nicolas Geraud, deputy director of the gendarmerie's IT department, said: "We will introduce Linux every time we have to replace a desktop computer, so this year we expect to change 5,000-8,000 to Ubuntu and then 12,000-15,000 over the next four years so that every desktop uses the Linux operating system by 2013-2014." This move will save about seven million euro - $10.3 million - a year, so imagine what savings will be done in a few years!
In 2005, the French police chose OpenOffice over Microsoft Office and, a year later, Microsoft's Internet Explorer was changed with Mozilla Firefox. Thunderbird - another product of the Mozilla Foundation - became the default email client of the gendarmerie. "When we made that choice Firefox represented about 3.0 percent of Internet browsers and it's about 20 to 25 percent now which confirms our choice," said the colonel.
The "Gendarmerie Nationale" is not the first administration in France that shifted to open source operating systems. The National Assembly was the first one which adopted Ubuntu for its 1,200 PCs last year. Although, the gendarmerie is the biggest administration, with more than 100,000 employees.
UPDATE: We want to thank didli for clearing things up related to the "Gendarmerie Nationale". The article has been changed accordingly.