Likely players for the Inland Revenue IT contract are keeping their cards close to their chest after specifications were published last week.
The £4bn contract covering 73,000 desktops and 200 systems, currently in EDS' hands, will expire in 2004, but the Revenue's IT director John Yard said last year that EDS is not guaranteed to retain the lucrative contract.
The Revenue wants the outsourcing deal, which could stretch to 18 years, to go to a single contractor or consortium which would start work in April 2004, according to a notice published in the Official Journal of the European Communities.
It said that the ideal number of tenders is three but that it will accept up to five. The deadline for requests is May, but possible contenders are cagey over their intentions.
A CSC spokeswoman said: "We haven't made a decision yet. We will be looking at what we need to do and weighing it up."
IBM Global Services' response was even more reticent. "In the interest of customer confidentiality it is IBM's policy not to disclose any negotiations that are taking place with any of our customers," it said.
Meanwhile EDS is more gung-ho about its chances. A spokeswoman stated: "Of course we are going for it. We are deeply involved and embedded in the Inland Revenue. We don't just want to win it. We want to redevelop and expand the services and benefits."
Richard Holway, an analyst at Ovum Holway, explained that he backed EDS' chances. "The number of outsourcing deals that change hands are as rare as hens' teeth, but the Revenue has got to be seen to be fair," he said.
Holway added that the bidding costs are prohibitive and may put off some companies. "They often cost a company millions of pounds. But there's always hope. The TV licensing deal was taken from Consignia," he pointed out.
IBM and Technical University of Munich team demonstrate how Shor's algorithm, which can't be cracked by conventional computers, can be solved quickly with quantum computing
Hubble Space Telescope finds superflares from young red dwarfs could strip away planetary atmosphere
Younger stars are 100 to 1,000 times more energetic than when they're older
Two of the big four supermarkets will use the system to control sales of restricted products
PUBG news and updates: November's Update #23 to bring new Skorpion pistol and changes to blue zone visibility
Genuinely useful side-arm coming to PUBG in Update #23