Although Linux was already blipping on the Kerala IT@School project radar, and the plans of VS Achuthanandans government to develop the state as a Foss (free and open software systems) destination has expedited the open software plans.
Free software guru Richard Stallmans visit last week had nudged the schools to discard the proprietary software altogether, state education minister MA Baby told FE. Stallman has inspired Keralas transition to free software on the lines of an exciting model of a Spanish province, which did the same, the minister said.
The Left Democratic Front government targets implementing an earlier government order that was issued during the previous United Democratic Front regime. The decision was taken in 2004 to push open source systems, but this was not actively followed, said Baby. Initially, schools were given the option to choose whether teachers were to be trained in Linux systems or Microsoft. The option has now narrowed down to migration.
In the current year, class VIII students have shifted to Linux. By 2007, class XI students and by 2008 class X students will follow suit.
Linux PC dealers are upbeat. Offers of pre-loaded Linux operating system could fetch good hardware sales margins, says PK Harikrishnan, president, Kerala Computer Manufacturers and Dealers Association. There are other reasons as well. A sting operation by Microsoft in October 2005 had not endeared the proprietary software to PC and peripherals dealers. Often PC vendors are caught between customers demand for free pirated software along with hardware, and the fine print of law. Some dealers in Kerala even see the Foss market as a narrow, but a safe corridor out of this mess.