Local governments dive onto Windows 8.1 volume discounts

By Paul Hemsley and Julian Bajkowski

Microsoft may not be shouting it from the rooftops, however its latest operating system release, Windows 8.1, looks like it will increasingly be heavily discounted for local governments in New South Wales under Volume Software Pricing arrangements more commonly used by state and federal governments.

As the mega vendor prepares for the global launch of it’s latest product on 18th October 2013, Parramatta City Council has confirmed it is upgrading to the new software “under strict procurement processes” that access either Local Government Procurement contracts or NSW State procurement contracts depending on which provides the best pricing.

The volume pricing deal is a small coup for Parramatta because it the first government agency in Australia to officially deploy Windows 8.1.

The issue of councils accessing larger volume software pricing discounts has been a perennially thorny topic for technology vendors and purchasers because many global suppliers often prefer to sell through resellers where margins can be bolstered.

In August 2012 Microsoft came under fire in Canberra after it was revealed that the volume pricing offered to federal government agencies here was estimated by the Department of Finance to be up to 40 per cent higher than what the software vendor was charging public sector organisations in the United States.

An issue commonly cited by vendors is that directly servicing the local government sector in Australia is often not always efficient because of the high number of organisations that have a relatively small number of users.

That appears to have prompted larger councils with substantial individual purchasing power, like Parramatta City Council, to push for the same kind of value available to state and federal agencies.

Parramatta’s upgrade to Windows 8.1 is significant for the large Western Sydney council because of its wider effort to harness innovation and newer technologies to help cement its standing as a “leading economic region” that caters to research, education and enterprise.

In 2011 Parramatta launched its own tech-led project, dubbed ParraConnect, to become a so-called “smart city”.

Parramatta City Council Lord Mayor Cr John Chedid said the Windows 8.1 announcement signalled the start of what he hopes will be an ongoing, long-term partnership with Microsoft that not only improves internal efficiencies but will lead to “more positive community outcomes”.

“By 2038 we want Parramatta to be one of Australia’s most important business districts, leading on innovation and encouraging collaboration to constantly drive business improvement,” Mr Chedid said.

“Technology will be a key enabler in turning this vision into reality, and our move to Windows 8.1 reflects our commitment. Once implemented, the software will help transform Council’s 750 employees into a truly mobile workforce with anywhere, anytime access, with significant flow-on benefits to the local community.”

Mr Chedid’s negotiating prowess also managed to attract Microsoft’s Australian head, Pip Marlow to officially cut the ribbon on the upgrade.

To help sweeten the deal, the new operating system will cover employees in an agreement between Parramatta City Council and Microsoft that has no additional cost for the council because the rollout is provided for by its licence agreement with Microsoft.

So far the upgrade is being hosted on Parramatta council’s own infrastructure rather than via a cloud provider because of “significant flow-on benefits” to the local community.

According to Parramatta, Windows 8.1 will first be installed on the council’s fleet of tablets, smartphones and laptops, before being rolled out to its desktop PCs. A Windows application for employees is also under development to deliver remote 24/7 access to its tools and services.

It has also committed to introducing a range of new smart devices and programs, including 3D printers, video conferencing tools, and mobile computing.

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