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CIO Survey: Half to deploy more free software
By Sameer Batra

The open source and free software movements continue their relentless march into markets dominated by technology giants like Microsoft, SAP, Oracle and IBM.  Many techies using Microsoft products at work prefer Mozilla Firefox and Linux at home. The quality, cost and idealism of this software is proving irresistible.

Global Graphics is a leading developer of e-document and printing software. Global Graphics has surveyed 400 CIO’s in US and UK to get an idea on how many plan to use free software in the future. And the results may rattle giants like Microsoft which sell proprietary software.

The Global Graphics research shows that three quarters (76 per cent) of large organizations already use free software across the enterprise. Indeed, over half (54 per cent) of large organizations use more than 10 different free software products.

The most deployed piece of free software is Adobe Reader which is used by 78 per cent of organizations (at an enterprise or departmental level), with Java Runtime Environment and Adobe Flash Player completing the top three. QuickTime, OpenOffice, Google Docs, Skype and Microsoft Save as PDF also make the top 10 most used free software applications.

The main driver for using free software, cited by 47 per cent of CIOs, is to complement existing desktop applications to extend functionality to users that could not be provided using paid-for software. The replacement of Adobe Acrobat was cited by 38 per cent of CIOs, while 24 per cent are looking to free software to replace Microsoft Office.

The Executive Summary of their research is

- The survey questioned 400 CIOs from organizations with more than 1000 employees, across a range of commercial and public sectors. In the US, 300 CIOs were polled, in the UK, 100. The research was conducted in January 2010
- Free software is an established software tool for both public sector organizations and commercial companies in the US and UK, with a majority of CIOs using it for departmental as well as enterprise-level operations
- Free software has achieved particular popularity around desktop applications and their management. It is also being increasingly used by organizations for applications, in the data centre, and in software-as-a-service (SaaS) delivery models
- Adobe Reader is the most commonly installed free software within large enterprises; yet four in ten CIOs will consider replacing Adobe Acrobat with free software
- Most organizations routinely use many different free software products to run their operations. Half of interviewees use more than ten free software products in their organization
- Half of CIOs are already planning to use free software for corporate-level implementations in 2010 and even more say they plan department-focused projects this year
- Senior IT executives deploy free software to drive down software licensing costs. Product standardization and smarter desktop management are also seen as key advantages. CIOs are also seeking new ways for free software to boost productivity; about half say it enables them to complement existing desktop applications and nearly four in ten think they will use this software to replace or complement reader products
- When it comes to managing perceived risks of using free software, CIOs are primarily concerned by product quality and availability. Products are generally judged and evaluated against the same rigorous criteria as paid-for products
- As the user dynamics change, senior IT executives claim to be comfortable dealing with open source providers or vendors whose freeware is a restricted version of its paid-for product but there is no majority view at present
- For service and support needs, CIOs favor free product support but paid-for technical support and user forum/technical knowledge is prominent in their thinking. Most CIOs favor a mix of PC and server-based download and installation options

India, like many countries in Asia, has large scale deployments of free and open source software. In this race, we are well ahead of many American workplaces.

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