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Munich's initiative to implement Open Source Software in its council offices

The "Linux for Munich" initiative is the brainchild of some social democratic city councillors in the Bavarian capital, after Microsoft refused to continue supporting Windows NT and forced the city to upgrade its hardware and software. The initiative found broad support from the other left - leaning parties in the city council, and in May 2003 the Mayor of Munich, Christian Ude, after asking an IT-consultancy to evaluate the pros and cons of migrating the 13000 Desktop machines and servers to Linux or to a newer version of Windows, made his decision: Unilog, the IT consultants, came to the conclusion that a step by step migration to Linux would make more strategic sense than staying with Bill and his buddies. Even though an upgrade to XP might be cheaper in pure monetary sense, the dependency on one company and its expensive licensing system was seen as a significant disadvantage.

After some deliberation and (fruitless) personal intervention by Steve Ballmer (it was rumoured that he offered a free XP license for the city) and a lastminute worldwide price-drop of Office XP by 15 percent the councillors decided on 16.5.04 against the votes of the conservatives of the CSU to go for Linux. These fine fellows (who have been governing the state of Bavaria for almost fifty years now) voiced their concern about the possibility that Bavaria might lose its competitive edge by using products of amateur programmers (they used the word "Feierabendprogrammierer", loosely translated as "free time programmers").

A group led by IBM and SuSe will now implement the necessary changes in three steps:

  • Use Open Source Software (especially OpenOffice and Mozilla on Windows, then
  • Replace the desktop clients with Linux, lastly
  • Replace the server infrastructure with Linux

Good on them. This will then be the second German city replacing Microsoft products with OSS, the first being Schwaebisch - Hall. A step away from a monopoly is always the right one. Monoculture has few desireable effects, in agriculture as in software.

Update: The Project is (at 13.12.04) still on track. There was a slight hiccup during implementation while the lawyers chewed on the Software Patents issue, but this has been solved and things are proceeding smoothly.


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