Microsoft might not be unduly worried about Vinothan Shankar's e-petition to Downing Street to dump Windows as the dominant operating system for PCs in UK schools and replace it with a free open-source alternative. But it could prove an interesting lithmus test to see whether open source is gaining a foothold in schools following the success of Moodle as a VLE and the popularity of the Asus EeePC Linux netbook.

The petition has so far been signed by 163 people but there is still plenty of time - the final deadline is August 6. It warns: "The only BECTA recommended operating system for schools is Microsoft Windows, but there are several reasons why this is not the best choice for use in an educational environment.

"Firstly, the vast majority of malware in existence is for Windows. Secondly, the cost of a Windows computer may prevent some learners from having one at home which is compatible with the ones used at school. Thirdly, Windows restricts the user's choice of such settings as languages and character support based on edition bought. Finally, Windows is not designed for education.

"For these reasons, we believe that the primary OS used in schools should be a free and open source alternative. Many operating systems that are more secure than Windows are available, although there is currently only one specifically designed for education. Many of these systems are Linux-based, and so there are alternatives to most Windows software available, and where they are not, it is possible to run windows applications."

The charitable project mySociety partners with Downing Street to run the e-petitions online service. The intention is to "provide a service to allow citizens, charities and campaign groups to set up petitions that are hosted on the Downing Street website, enabling anyone to address and deliver a petition directly to the Prime Minister".

More information

Vinothan Shankar's Open Source petition

Downing Street E-Petitions