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Linux in crisis at Beaumont Hospital

There is a story in today’s Irish Times about a dispute between the IT directorand the CEO at Beaumont Hospital over the use of Linux.

Avid Linux watchers will know that Linux is big in Beaumont (IBM press release, Sun case study)

Basically, the jist is that the CEO wants to switch to Windows on the basis that Beaumont is the only hospital in Ireland on Linux, and on the basis that the Linux system doesn’t deliver the functionality required.

The IT director says that it would cost EUR 2 million to make this change, money that would be better spent on upgrading desktop computers. (I assume this includes some of the costs of upgrading hardware.) The CEO disputes this, and says the hospital could avail of major discounts.

Obviously, there’s a lot of leaking and spinning going on here. I don’t know anything beyond what’s in the papers. However, it’s not surprising that there’s been some degree of reaction to the use of StarOffice and a linux desktop – it’s a big change if it’s not what you’re used to.

I don’t know about the discounts either. There isn’t really that much discount to be had on the Microsoft tax – Beaumont wouldn’t appear to be eligible for an academic discount, and there’s very little scope to avoid the yearly licence payments. It’s the ongoing cost of Microsoft that hits an institution, rather than the initial price.

[I have combed the Interweb, well, checked Google and Technorati, and I can’t seem to find any other references to this story in the blogosphere. However, there’s this article on Electricnews.]

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  1. Antoin, moving from MS Office to is not a big change. version 2.0 is virtually indestinguishable from MS Office. Nor are the Linux desktops available all that different from Windows. This disupute is political/economic, not technical, IMO.

    MS Ireland have long been hostile to this working example of Open Source and would probably offer discounts to Beaumont to re-adopt their software.

    The unfortuate thing about this dispute is that it eclipses other benefits that have arisen from adopting Open Source at Beaumont. They have been active in developing and collaborating in the development of OSS software now shared with other hospitals across Europe.

  2. Well, I don’t know if it’s quite ‘indistinguishable’ from MS Office. But I’d probably reluctantly agree that it’s as good, or nearly as good. You certainly can’t fault it for value-for-money, and for the average user who just knocks out the odd document, it’s definitely fine.

    I say I’m not surprised, because it’s hard to get people to deal with something different from the standard. There’re always some complaints and moaning, even if the issues are minor.

    I think that for such a dominant player to offer special discounts in this circumstances would be very suspect. But no real facts have come out yet on this issue.