Munich's great Linux desktop initiative may end

After a decade of running Linux on the desktop, the city will let employees choose their work OS

Munich's great Linux desktop initiative may end
Credit: The City of Munich

A decade ago, there was much hoopla over the city of Munich discarding Windows desktops in favor of Linux, which were thought to be more secure and cheaper to deploy and maintain. 

Well, that experiment is coming to an end. TechRepublic reports the city is prepared to shift gears and allow users once again to choose Windows for their work PC instead of Linux after complaints of poorer productivity and compatibility issues. But it's not going to happen overnight; the Windows option won't come until 2021. 

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Over a nine-year period starting in 2004, the city moved about 15,000 staff from using Windows and Office to LiMux, a custom version of the Ubuntu desktop OS, and OpenOffice, although it later moved to LibreOffice. This was a huge deal. Munich was one of the largest organizations to reject Windows, and Microsoft was so alarmed that then-CEO Steve Ballmer flew to Munich to meet the mayor. 

Ten years later, and things aren't going so good. The city’s human resources department is particularly critical of LiMux, saying that since 2006, “the efficiency and productivity of the POR-supported workplaces has decreased noticeably”—referencing crashes, display and printing errors. 

TechReport cites a letter from the city that states, “Even 10 years after the start of the LiMuX migration, the users and users of the POR are dissatisfied,” and that even after updates, LiMux and LibreOffice are “far behind the current technical possibilities of established standard solutions.”

Was performance of LiMux and LibreOffice really the reason? 

However, ZDNet theorizes that the problem isn't with the software but the 2014 election of mayor Dieter Reiter, whom the head of Europe's Free Software Foundation claims was against free software from the beginning and that Reiter was an enthusiastic supporter of Microsoft moving its German headquarters to Munich. 

Last year, Reiter commissioned a report from consultants, which included Microsoft partner Accenture, that concluded staff should be given the option of using Windows 10 and Microsoft Office. 

The council will also phase out the use of the Thunderbird email client and LibreOffice suite and replace them with “market standard products” that offer the “highest possible compatibility” with external and internal software.

Well, I'm just shocked that politics would play a role in such a decision. Not surprised, either.

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