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Threat to M$ as UK plans to use foss

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Microsoft faces a serious threat to its UK public sector monopoly from plans by local authorities to increase their use of open source software, a survey commissioned by the FT has found.

More than 60 per cent said they intended to increase their use of open source software, which is free or much cheaper than Microsoft's products. More than three-quarters using it plan to expand their use over the next three years, while two out of five who do not yet use it plan to do so.

The survey of nearly 100 local authorities and public bodies comes as the new government prepares to announce plans to encourage more take-up of open source in the public sector, which spent £12.4bn on information technology in 2003-04.

The cost reductions identified as the main benefit of open source products by the vast majority of respondents in the survey will help public bodies achieve savings targets laid down following the Gershon review of public spending.

Microsoft faces pressure across Europe over its software pricing structure which leaves public bodies facing huge bills for upgrading the company's Windows programmes. Steve Ballmer, the company's chief executive officer, has acknowledged that the threat from open source software now poses Microsoft's most important long-term competitive challenge.

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