The New Reformation Starts in Munich

Microsoft has lost Munich. In a major public-sector reverse for the company in Germany, the government of the city will be replacing the Windows Operating System on fourteen thousand of its civil-servants computers with ‘Open Source’ Linux supplied by IBM.

Munich is the first German large city to reject Windows in favour of Linux. In December, the smaller southern German city of Schwäbisch Hall became the first to deploy Linux as an alternative business platform. So concerned were Microsoft by the signs of this modern reformation, that Chief Executive Officer, Steve Ballmer, met with the city’s Mayor Christian Ude,to argue that a cheaper Microsoft bid, estimated at $32 million, offered a more cost effective solution than could be achieved through rejecting Windows in favour of a new partnership with IBM and German Linux-developer SuSe.

In Germany, federal, state and local governments as well as other public agencies have been studying the benefits of Open Source Linux as they attempt to reduce their dependence on a single vendor, Microsoft, where IT costs are involved. Ironically, while the German government is seeking to reduce its dependence on Microsoft, other governments in Europe, such as the Municipality of Rome, appear to be doing quite the opposite and so the German decision may say more about worries over competition rather than concerns over technology.

In the end however, the German taxpayer may end-up as the loser from this grand experiment with Open Source computing. German cities are cash-strapped and this decision to go with IBM and Linux will, at least in the short-term, cost the city’s finances more, not only as a consequence of accepting the more expensive of the two bids but in terms of re-training the workforce, which one source estimates at a further €10 million.


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