German city that ditched Windows for Linux wants to go back to Windows

We’ve heard it over and over again. Sometimes it will be an individual, other times a group or organization will will claim Linux is better than Windows. The same is said about open source software like OpenOffice. But rarely are people so daring to follow through with the switch, especially in a large organization.

Back in 2004, the German city of Munich ditched Microsoft Windows in favor of Linux in an attempt to save more than €10m and to be “independent” with open source software. The city of Munich determined that it would save more than €10m by not upgrading to Windows 7, newer versions of Office, as well as associated hardware upgrades. Instead, the city figured it would cost €23m to switch to Linux, as opposed to the €34m it would have costed to stick with Microsoft’s offerings.

The city began the migration from Windows NT and Office 97/2000 to a Linux-based operating system called “Limux” (custom version of Ubuntu), a custom version of OpenOffice, and a variety of free software such as the Mozilla Firefox browser, Mozilla Thunderbird email client, and the Gimp photo editing software. This affected approximately 15,000 city staff members.

And now the city wants to come back to Windows, according to a new report. Two influential senior members of the city’s IT committee have filed a letter asking mayor Dieter Reiter to consider removing the Linux-based OS and to install Windows with Microsoft Office, citing the cumbersomeness and limited use of Linux.

Screenshot of Limux operating system

Screenshot of Limux operating system

Despite the high-end devices that were purchased for city staff members, the common complaint has been the inability to use the devices for simple tasks such as word processing and making video calls. “There are no programs for text editing, Skype, Office etc., installed and that prevents normal use,” the two senior members argue. Although the complaint says there isn’t a program for text editing, each of their machines comes pre-installed with LibreOffice.

One of the big complaints from using Limux and OpenOffice/LibreOffice is the incompatibilities with Microsoft Office. As we are all well aware of, sometimes creating documents, spreadsheets, and other files on OpenOffice will appear differently on Microsoft Office, and vice versa. This makes it hard to communicate with other organizations who are most likely using Microsoft Office.

Many city members are using their own devices to overcome these issues. “These devices have already cost a lot of money to acquire. Many town councillors are using their own private notebooks because of the problems,” the senior city members claim. Apparently, because of this issue, a large number of the purchased devices are “going unused” — which means the city wasted money purchasing them in the first place.

Instead of Linux, these senior members want the city to switch back to Windows and to utilize Microsoft Office. The mayor has yet to respond to the complaint, but a review on what option is best to save money is already under way, and frankly, with the recommendations coming from the senior IT guys, the mayor will likely oblige. Oddly enough, there isn’t a widespread dissatisfaction with the use of Linux and other open source alternatives to Office, but that doesn’t mean people are happy with it — the challenges are definitely there.

It’s hard to communicate with other organizations when your open-source created documents are not opening properly on their Windows computers running Office. It’s even harder to communicate and work when your work-created documents are not displaying correctly on your personal Windows device. There’s a reason why Windows and Office are the two most dominant and widely used software in the world. I wouldn’t be surprised if the city switched back — would you be? Should they stick to their pride and make it work with Linux? Or should they make it easier on themselves and jump back to familiar territory?

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