Since I'm writing this on St. Patrick's Day, covering news involving the British government--those perfidious Hanoverians who dispossessed my Irish ancestors several centuries ago--feels just a little off-base. Still, the United Kingdom's official endorsement of open source software, which became public just a few days ago, seems too important to miss, particularly for the implications it could have for businesses, governments and other organizations throughout the channel.

For the record, apart from my Jacobite nostalgia, I don't actually harbor any bitter feelings toward the British government. And even if I did, I would have to temper them a bit now that officials have recommended the widespread use of open source software in a beta version of the Government Service Design Manual, the official guide to digital services for government organizations.

In the section dedicated to FOSS, the document advises decision-makers to "use open source software in preference to proprietary or closed source alternatives, in particular for operating systems, networking software, Web servers, databases and programming languages." The advantages to this approach, the guide says, are myriad, and include lowering the barriers for collaboration, preventing lock-in to specific software platforms, decreasing security risks and promoting innovation.

These are the key talking points of any open source advocacy campaign, and they won't surprise anyone already familiar with open source development models. But their aggressive endorsement by a national government is pretty significant, given the political and commercial implications at stake. By strongly encouraging government organizations in Britain to adopt open source wherever possible, the guide also recommends against deploying proprietary alternatives, which tend to be more commercial and less British. In other words, this is bad news for companies such as Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), whose products the guide discourages.

Of course, those vendors can perhaps take comfort in the fact that the document focuses on designing digital services using open frameworks. It doesn't explicitly mention niches such as desktop operating systems or productivity software, in which commercial developers would stand to lose a lot more if organizations in Britain moved toward wider adoption of, for instance, Ubuntu and LibreOffice instead of Windows and Microsoft Office.

Still, the encouragement of open source solutions for designing digital services could be particularly important as government organizations build clouds, Big Data infrastructure and other types of resources that are growing increasingly vital for providing good service, but for which drop-in, ready-to-go software packages are not yet widely available. It also promises to create more opportunities for channel partners to develop the type of open source solutions for government the guide advocates--exactly as some open source vendors have already started to do by expanding their business strategies for Europe.