City of Munich ditches Microsoft Windows and Office | Apertura Designs

City of Munich ditches Microsoft Windows and Office

TechRepublic UK recently reported on the successful conclusion of the City of Munich's massive, multi-year project to migrate to free and open source software. The article makes for compelling reading due to the sheer scale of the migration (Munich is Germany's third largest city), and the factors which ultimately lead to open source replacing the proprietary status quo.

The zero-cost aspect of open source is often highlighted as a major benefit compared with expensive, proprietary software. Indeed, the City of Munich calculated a whopping €10 million savings in moving to open source—the result of replacing both Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office with solutions based on Ubuntu Linux and LibreOffice (as well as adopting auxiliary applications including Mozilla Thunderbird). But aside from cost, an equally important (and often overlooked) benefit of open source is the freedom it affords businesses. We have written on this topic before, and the arguments that we highlighted form the same critical drivers for Munich's project. A particular theme in TechRepublic's report is how Munich sought freedom from the predatory business tactics used by Microsoft, including costly forced upgrade cycles.

Highlights from the article include:

  • "The project finished within budget in October 2013, with more than 14,800 staff migrated to using Limux and more than 15,000 to OpenOffice."
  • "Munich says the move to open source has saved it more than €10m . . . yet . . . the point of making the switch was never about money, but about freedom."
  • "Becoming independent meant Munich freeing itself from closed, proprietary software, more specifically . . . Microsoft Windows . . . and the Microsoft Office suite..."
  • "By choosing to swap . . . Munich was able to keep using its old PCs for longer, something that . . . would not have been possible if it had chosen some of the recent versions of Microsoft Office and Windows 7."

Our previous blog entry concerned an article that conflated adopting technology to improve business efficiency with future proofing. We were critical of the author's advice that using closed, proprietary products (Google Docs in this case) would result in future proofing to any meaningful degree. The reasons Munich used to seek escape from Microsoft are applicable to any closed-source technology ecosystem—including Google's—and for Munich switching to open source was a key part of how they truly future proofed their technology investment:

  • "Free software was ruled the better choice by Munich's ruling body, principally because it would free the council from dependence on any one vendor and future-proof the council's technology . . . via open protocols . . . and data formats."

The City of Munich's project was clearly large and complex. Smaller businesses, however, can learn a considerable amount from organisations that have successfully made the switch. This is especially true of new businesses looking to grow and gain a competitive advantage over established companies grappling with the problems that eventually led Munich to fully embrace open source and open standards.

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