Becta (British Educational Communications and Technology Agency), the Government’s agency leading the development and implementation of the Department for Education and Skills e-Strategy has today (6 January 2006) announced it is to undertake a value for money review of Microsoft’s educational licensing programmes and their impact in the UK.
The review will pay particular attention to Microsoft’s subscription licensing models and the risks associated with non-perpetual licences. It will examine the total costs of exiting those licence agreements and the corresponding risks of ‘lock-in’. If risks are found, the report will seek to identify mechanisms whereby schools and colleges could mitigate those risks and protect their investment.
Becta will also consider the educational advantages of schools and colleges adopting the updated versions of Microsoft products to be launched in 2006 (such as the proposed Vista Operating System, or the Office 12 suite), or whether the balance of educational advantage for institutions is to continue using current versions.
Owen Lynch, Chief Executive, Becta said: “Becta has always recognised the importance of ensuring schools and colleges have access to a range of products and services which represent good value for money. In areas where a single supplier is dominant particular vigilance is necessary to guarantee that this happens and that schools do not find themselves inadvertently ‘locked in’ to a particular supplier via for example a licensing mechanism. Thus we have initiated a review.”
Commenting specifically on alternatives to Microsoft’s Office Productivity suite Owen Lynch added “I am particularly keen to ensure that where there are alternative products to those available from a dominant supplier, schools have easy access to them. We will explore with the industry whether in the case of products which are ‘free’ to the education sector it makes sense to reduce barriers to uptake by ‘pre loading’ such offerings.”
The interim report will be available by June 2006.
I’m sure Microsoft will be watching this one closely to try to prevent another “Massachusetts.”
Also note that there is a second review going on which also has the potential for significant Microsoft impact:
The review will analyse ways in which both pupils and parents can cost effectively acquire the applications and licences necessary when working on the same document on either a home or school computer. It will also address compatibility issues when a home computer runs different office productivity products to those used at school. Becta will also explore the licensing implications when a pupil or a parent logs on to a school system, and uses resources and applications on those systems.
Owen Lynch, Chief Executive, Becta, said: “Becta will work to ensure that there are no unnecessary licensing or document interoperability issues that might impede developments in the area of Home School Links or lead to additional unacceptable costs for parents or schools. This is particularly important both in the context of addressing the digital divide and in the increasing number of circumstances where pupils and parents access information and resources online from schools.”
The interim report for this review is due in August 2006.