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article imageRow over 'very limited' Linux PCs escalates in Munich

By James Walker     Mar 15, 2017 in Technology
Munich - A dispute has erupted in Munich over the city's plans to revert back to Microsoft Windows-based computers after years of using Linux. The city's head of IT has now said there's no need to switch, insisting the unpopular Linux machines are working fine.
Munich has been mulling over the idea of returning to Windows for several years. Last month, it progressed in its plans by formally voting to start investigating how a transition would work. After investing millions of euros in moving to open-source software, it's beginning to map out its path to Microsoft's Windows 10.
As The Inquirer reports, Karl-Heinz Schneider, Head of IT at City of Munich IT services provider IT@M, isn't pleased with the decision. In an interview with German news site, he publicly criticised the plans to start using Windows again after nine years away.
Schneider claimed there are no "compelling" reasons why Windows and Microsoft Office should be used over Linux and LibreOffice. He said that initial compatibility issues between Linux PCs and Office files used by other companies have been resolved. IT@M introduced access to Office via virtualised systems to address the concerns of workers after Linux was first introduced.
Schneider's comments are at odds with the views of two senior Munich IT members. In August 2015, the pair sent the city's mayor a letter about the state of staff computers. In it, they explained that the specialist 'Limux' Linux distribution installed is "of very limited use."
The IT staff said many of the city's computers go unused because staff members prefer to bring their own devices. Although the hardware provided is high-end, its functionality is restricted by the lack of Linux software available.
However, Schneider's views are upheld by an earlier report from independent consultants Accenture and Arf. In a review of Munich's IT systems, the firm found no evidence that either Linux or LibreOffice is the root cause of the problems.
Instead, it placed blame on the fragmentation of Munich's IT department, an issue Schneider is willing to admit. The organisational structure has led to inefficiencies around delivering new hardware and approving software for use. Schneider recognised the department has made mistakes in the past but insisted it's "never had anything to do" with Linux.
With the controversy now escalating into a very public debate, it's currently unknown which operating system Munich will be using for the next decade. Linux is currently deployed on 20,000 computers across the city. Converting them all back to Windows will take months of further work.
While it's attracted the most attention, Munich isn't the only city to have shunned Windows in favour of open-source software. Last September, Moscow abandoned Microsoft's Outlook email program in favour of its own system. Concerns about the use of proprietary software in government departments have also been raised across the world, including in the UK where a long-running but slowly progressing campaign is encouraging Linux usage.
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