Munich chooses Linux over Windows

After several months of intensive research and debate, the Munich city government is to migrate its entire computer network to...

After several months of intensive research and debate, the Munich city government is to migrate its entire computer network to the open-source Linux operating system, dropping Microsoft's Windows system in the process.

Germany's third largest city will equip all of the 14,000 computers in its public administration with Linux and other open-source office applications, the city government said yesterday.

SuSE Linux and IBM have worked closely with city government officials to help them make a "strategic decision" in favour of Linux and both hope to supply and maintain the open-source software, and possibly hardware, when the migration program begins next year, said SuSE chief executive officer Richard Seibt.

"The city plans to award the contract for Linux software in February after studying in detail how to proceed with the migration program," Seibt said.

In the run-up to the decision to select Linux, the only distributor of the open-source software to have negotiated with Munich city officials was SuSE, said company spokesman Christian Egle.

"We and IBM will continue to work closely with IT experts in the city government as they prepare to award the contract," he said. "Since we've been involved in the bidding process from the start, we believe we have very good chances of winning the contract."

Asked whether Munich officials were concerned about recent intellectual property violations claims made by the SCO Group against Linux software developers, distributors and users, Seibt said neither Munich nor any other German city or major business customer he has talked to is too concerned. 

"It wasn't an issue with Munich and it isn't an issue with any other big customers," he said.

Seibt referred to SCO's intellectual property violation claims as "astonishing" and said the company needed to prove them.

"SCO has not said exactly which intellectual property rights are being violated," he said. "We know exactly what is in our code. We know the processes that we have been using for years to avoid violating IP rights. So we really don't understand what  SCO is talking about. Before I lose any sleep at night, I think it's the responsibility of SCO to reveal their IP violation claims."

In Germany, federal, state and local governments as well as other public agencies have been considering Linux intensively ever since the Federal Ministry of the Interior agreed in June to a partnership with IBM to supply computers with Linux at favourable conditions.

Seibt declined to say which other German cities were on SuSE's radar. "I'm not about to let the competition know who we're talking to," he said.

"I want to avoid having [Microsoft chief executive officer] Steve Ballmer travel to another Germany city."

Worried that a defeat in Munich could lead to a string of German city governments opting for Linux, Ballmer made a personal visit to Munich city Mayor Christian Ude in March.

Ude said the decision to use Linux will ensure the city greater IT independence and "set a clear signal for greater competition in the software market".

Seibt said that Munich's game plan is "to drop Microsoft products completely". In addition to the Linux operating system, the city also plans to deploy either StarOffice or OpenOffice open-source application software.

The decision on office software is slated for next year, he said.

As for costs, SuSE has proposed a price-per-inhabitant model. "We've decided to charge not on a PC basis but rather on a resident basis," Seibt said. "This approach is unique in the industry. Each resident should know what IT costs he or she generates."

Seibt declined to provide price points, saying only that the low cost of deploying Linux was one of the reasons why Munich opted for it.

John Blau writes for IDG News Service

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