16 January 2007

Becta Late Than Never

I've been a bit remiss in not posting this earlier, but it's still worth underlining the major shift that's going on here, at all sorts of levels.

A while back, I was moaning about Becta not giving free software a chance in UK schools. Well, they've obviously been on holiday to Damascus, because in the recently-published interim report on Microsoft Vista and Office 2007, Becta seems to have seen the light:

The report found that whilst the new features of Vista add value, there are no “must have” features in the product that would justify early deployment in schools and colleges. The technical, financial and organisational challenges associated with early deployment currently make this a high risk strategy. Early deployment is therefore strongly recommended against.


As the costs of deployment of Office 2007 would be significant, Becta has not identified any convincing justification for the early adoption of Office 2007. Recognising that many schools and colleges already have perfectly adequate office productivity solutions there would need to be a strong case to justify the necessary investment.


The report compared Office 2007 with a range of competitor products and found that many of them delivered about 50% of the Office 2007 functionality, enough it is believed to meet or exceed basic office productivity requirements of many schools.

Becta therefore calls on the ICT industry to ensure that computers for the education marketplace are delivered with a choice of Office productivity suites available, which ideally should include an open-source offering.

The ability for schools to exercise choice is further restricted by interoperability difficulties and Becta is calling on Microsoft to improve its support for the ODF interoperability standard.

There is also concern that the current lack of support for Microsoft’s new file formats in competitor products (particularly “free to education” products) may exacerbate “digital divide” issues. Becta therefore advises that schools and colleges should only deploy Office 2007 when its interoperability with alternative products is satisfactory.

Definitely better late than never.

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