A deal struck by government CIO John Suffolk and the Cabinet Office could save the public sector billions of pounds by supplying networked, supported PCs for around half the typical price.

Suffolk said the Cabinet Office had cut the total cost of ownership for PCs by half, compared with the Gartner benchmark price of £2,000 per PC. The Gartner benchmark is widely used in the public and private sectors for pricing PCs.

If just £100 a year were saved on every PC used by the UK's three to four million public servants, the annual savings would be at least £3bn over 10 years.

The Cabinet Office will make lower-cost PCs available across the public sector through its Flex framework deal with Fujitsu. Flex has so far been taken up by the Department of Innovation, Universities and Schools, Office of National Statistics and Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.

Suffolk's comments, in an interview with Gartner, are likely to raise questions over hardware prices in organisations that pay more than £1,000 for each networked PC.

The Cabinet Office's price of £800 to £1,000 per PC - according to the numbers bought - includes support, server farms, security to low-level government standards, storage, Open Office software and infrastructure costs. It is "commodity" pricing for supported PCs, said Suffolk.

The government's standard configuration on the deal includes some elements not allowed for in Gartner's price, and vice versa, he said.

Some government departments and the wider public sector have paid at least £2,000 per PC, partly because this is regarded as the standard price for fully supported, networked PCs.

The Cabinet Office's calculations were based on a starting price of zero - suppliers had to explain and justify every item of cost thereafter.

Suffolk told Gartner, "I think we have fundamentally failed on a worldwide basis as an IT industry to understand the cost of what we do. And I roundly blame Gartner for this, because you guys are the ones who come up with TCO [total cost of ownership] benchmarking. It has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"So, I go out and I pick boring desktop infrastructure. What price do you think the suppliers broadly pitch? You will not be shocked to know that it is somewhere around the Gartner TCO benchmark."

Suffolk said a business will be told that the price of a desktop is value for money because it is the same or a little below Gartner's benchmark.

● Public sector outsourcing is costing up to 75% more than the market rate, price checking service Compass has warned.

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