Becta says that Microsoft's too expensive

An interim report published by Becta in January 2007 into Microsoft's Academic Licensing arrangements highlighted a number of "fundamental" concerns impacting on choice, competition in the marketplace and value for money for schools.

A separate report into Vista and Office 2007 highlighted concerns in relation to interoperability, with regards to previous Office versions as well as competing solutions.

Since their publication, Becta has been in discussions with Microsoft to secure the changes necessary to address the issues identified in both reports.

Some progress has been made, though a number of fundamental issues remain unresolved.

These centre around the limitations Microsoft places on schools using its subscription licensing arrangements and the potential interoperability difficulties for schools, pupils and parents who wish to use alternatives to Microsoft's Office suite, including 'free to use' alternatives like OpenOffice.org package and Corel Wordprefect.

As no agreement has been reached with Microsoft in a number of key areas, and after reviewing detailed legal advice, the Government Agency has taken the decision to make a complaint to the Office of Fair Trading.

It hopes that by taking this step Microsoft will move promptly to address the issues raised.

In the interim, Becta's advice to schools considering moving to Microsoft's School Agreement subscription licensing model is that they should not do so.

Schools must be legally licensed for all the software they are using, and if licensing Microsoft products is an imperative they should consider using a perpetual agreement such as 'Select' until such time as the OFT have responded to their complaint.

If schools have already entered into a School Agreement licensing model they should consider their renewal and their buyout options alongside any findings the OFT may make.

Becta's advice to schools in relation to the deployment of Office 2007 remains that schools and colleges should only deploy Office 2007 when its interoperability with alternative products is satisfactory.

That would necessarily imply effective support by Microsoft of the internationally approved ODF file format.

Becta's final report, on Microsoft's Academic Licensing Programmes, which was scheduled for January 2008, will now be deferred until after the outcome of our complaint to the Office of Fair Trading is known.

Becta's final report on Vista and Office 2007 is scheduled for publication in January 2008.