RUSSIA: Government moves to replace Microsoft with Linux

Russian students will be exclusively using free software within three years after Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev announced a scheme to replace Microsoft with Linux.

Medvedev (42), a presidential hopeful who has been put in charge of a number of wide-ranging national projects in recent months, said the transfer to free software would begin in schools.Total cost of the switch-over is expected be around US$26 million as a one-off, but eventual savings are likely to be much higher, Medvedev said. Cash-conscious universities across Russia that largely use Microsoft programmes will be watching the development closely.

Until the end of this year, Moscow will pay for schools to buy Microsoft on three-year licences to tide them over while the transition is underway, Medvedev said after a Kremlin meeting with Information, Technologies and Communication Minister Leonid Reiman.

From 2010, schools will have the choice of renewing their Microsoft licences at a cost of up to 40,000 roubles (US$1,600), or adopting Linux, the free software developed by Finnish programmer Linus Torvalds.

Transition to Linux will take place in a rolling programme with schools in Tartastan – a central Russian semi-autonomous republic – Perm in the Urals and Tomsk in Siberia switching to the free software next year.