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The Document Foundation: Munich Returning to Windows and Office a Step Backwards

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The Document Foundation: Munich Returning to Windows and Office a Step Backwards




Munich exploring a potential switch back to Windows



The City of Munich, which has long been considered a pioneer of the transition from Windows to Linux, is now exploring ways to return to Microsoft’s solutions, with a proposal to move all computers to Windows 10 and Microsoft Office to be discussed today.


The Document Foundation, which is also the maker of LibreOffice, the productivity suite that’s being used on Munich’s computers powered by LiMux, says in a statement that returning to Windows and Microsoft Office is a step backwards for the city because of a number of factors that include Microsoft’s proprietary formats.


In a statement released today, The Document Foundation explains that the proposal that’s being discussed today by Munich authorities actually ignores the main reason the city abandoned Microsoft software in the first place: “independence from a single software vendor and the move from proprietary to standard document formats.”


Document issues when upgrading Microsoft Office


“Although the proposal associates MS Office document formats with the ‘industry standard’ concept, it should be clear that all MS Office documents are proprietary and obfuscated, and therefore inappropriate for interoperability, even when they have been recognized by international standard bodies such as ISO,” the organization explains in a press release that you can read in full below.


The Document Foundation then goes on to point to a series of issues that might arise from moving back to Microsoft Office, such as document problems when upgrading from a previous release of Redmond’s productivity suite. Costs would also be substantially increased and the decision would be against the current trend of adopting open document standards in countries like the UK, France, Sweden, and the Netherlands.


“The Document Foundation thinks that the proposal to be discussed on Wednesday, February 15, represents a significant step backwards for the City of Munich, with a substantial increase in expenditure, an unknown amount of hidden cost related to interoperability, and a questionable usage of taxpayers money,” the press release also states.


Microsoft hasn’t yet issued a statement on Munich’s possible return to Windows and Office, but given that the proposal will be discussed in just a few hours, expect all the involved parties to release comments shortly after that.


Press Release



The Document Foundation is an independent, charitable entity and the home of LibreOffice. We have followed the developments in Munich with great concerns and like to express our disappointment to see a minority of politicians apparently ignoring the expert advice for which they've sought.


Rumours of the City of Munich returning to Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office have been regularly leaking since the election of Mayor Dieter Reiter, who was described as a “Microsoft fan” when interviewed by StadtBild magazine in 2014.


Mayor Dieter Reiter asked Accenture, a Microsoft partner, to produce a report about the situation of the City of Munich's IT infrastructure, that resulted in a 450-page document where the main issues were identified as organizational ones and not related to open source operating systems and applications.


In the age of open data and transparency in political decision making, we are glad that the report is now made available to the general public (https://www.ris-muenchen.de/RII/RII/DOK/SITZUNGSVORLAGE/4277724.pdf).


According to the report, only a minor percentage of users (between 18% and 28%, based on different applications) had severe issues related to software, which could be solved by migrating these users to Windows and MS Office. Incidentally, 15% of users acknowledged severe issues related to MS Office.


In fact, the Accenture report suggests decoupling the operating system and application to reduce dependencies at client level. To ensure this, both Windows and LiMux should be deployed in a basic configuration, which includes operating systems as well as applications, such as LibreOffice, calendar and e-mail, required by all units and self-service providers. The basic configuration should be extended depending on the application.


In spite of the suggestions, on Wednesday, February 15, Munich City Council will discuss a proposal - filed by a minority of city councillors - to install Windows 10 and MS Office 2016 on all workstations by 2020. This would cost taxpayers close to 90 million euro over the next six years, with a 35% aggravation over the 66 million euro figure suggested by Accenture.


In addition, according to estimates provided by Green Party councillors, another 15 million euros should be spent to replace or upgrade PCs which are perfect for a small footprint operating system such as Linux, but cannot support even a Windows 10 basic configuration.


Last, but not least, most expenditures related to the purchase of Microsoft licenses will contribute to the GDP of Ireland (where all Microsoft products sold in Europe are sourced from) rather than to local enterprises who support the open source solutions deployed today. This is a rather striking difference in the allocation of taxpayers money, which should be carefully considered.


Apart from the cost aggravation, the proposal under discussion ignores the main reason behind the decision to migrate from proprietary to open source software by the City of Munich, i.e. independence from a single software vendor and the move from proprietary to standard document formats.


In fact, although the proposal associates MS Office document formats with the "industry standard" concept, it should be clear that all MS Office documents are proprietary and obfuscated, and therefore inappropriate for interoperability, even when they have been recognized by international standard bodies such as ISO. A standard document format, to be considered as such, must be implemented in the real world and not only described on paper.


If the current proposal will be approved, the City of Munich will not only lose the vendor independence it has sought over the last dozen of years, but will pursue a strategy which ignores the current trend mandating open document standards in countries such as UK, France, Sweden, the Netherlands and Taiwan.


Instead of investing in the education about open document standards, to increase the adoption and thus reduce interoperability costs, the City of Munich will adopt a pseudo-standard document format which is known to create issues even when upgrading from a previous release of the same MS Office software.


Based on the above considerations, The Document Foundation thinks that the proposal to be discussed on Wednesday, February 15, represents a significant step backwards for the City of Munich, with a substantial increase in expenditure, an unknown amount of hidden cost related to interoperability, and a questionable usage of taxpayers money.




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Of course The Document would say that but the fact still remains it only used by about a 120 million users about 100 million are non Linux users .. while Microsoft Office is used by over 1.2 billion people,



Even if they switch back  too Windows they could use LibreOffice, but the fact is they dont want too anymore  because it slows them down getting there work done which i already posted about before ...




In fact, LibreOffice users have found that the software is not always able to present Microsoft-formatted documents identically to the way that they would be formatted if they had been created natively in the appropriate Office application, but Meeks suggests that this is not a frequent problem. He also dismisses the idea that Office users may have a problem opening files created in LibreOffice and saved in a Microsoft format.




Sounds like the End user keep having problems and The Document deny they even exist ..Ive even read on Linux forums were many was having different problems. I never use LibreOffice i uninstall it from Linux if it comes on it  because we have 2 PCs  with Microsoft Office and this used for Home work . Its just like i never use Linux to encode audio or video ether .Windows have much better apps for this and is much faster at it.  M$ Office can be ran in Wine I hear but no need when i can just switch on my PC with M$ Office . Maybe if you just had one PC with only Linux you may want too try this.


The irony of open source  is there's many open source apps only for windows and i use some of them , There are some apps in Linux that Windows dont have but windows have alternatives for most that work as good or better .


The way I see it its not up too me or The Document what Munich uses its up to there government ,Just like it was not up to Microsoft when they decided to move to Linux to begin with.  They moved too Linux back when Linux was not even cool too use . I was on XP then I did not even know what Linux was yet.


I'm glad I have freedom of choice at home  that if I want too use Windows ,Linux or Mac OS I can .If it was up to Windows , Apple and Linux fanboys I would not have any choice. . At work unless you own a business or if they give you choices .. Most of the time you dont have any, you too have use what they say, even if it dont work right. I worked in places were i just had too make due with outdated things.



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.”


Even in 15 years if most  business do switch to Linux still MS will still have most small  business and  government businesses like Munich .. Most Governments are migrating too Windows 10 or have plains too while others are looking at alternatives .

Edited by steven36

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Linux champion Munich takes decisive step towards returning to Windows


A decade ago, Munich was at the vanguard of a movement towards open-source software, switching thousands of staff to Linux from Windows at a time when a move on that scale was almost unheard of.

After spending nine years and millions of euros on the project, today the city's politicians agreed to begin preparing to return to Windows by 2021.


Under a proposal backed by the general council, the administration will investigate how long it will take and how much it will cost to build a Windows 10 client for use by the city's employees.

Once this work is complete, the council will vote again on whether to replace LiMux, a custom version of the Linux-based OS Ubuntu, across the authority from 2021.


Dr Florian Roth, leader of the Green Party in Munich, who was deeply critical of the move to drop LiMux, said Munich was now very likely to move to Microsoft.

"The final decision will be later, but it's a formal decision. It's only that we will decide again, once we know everything about the costs, but the direction stays the same."


Thomas Ranft, Munich councillor and Pirate Party member, said LiMux has been held responsible for a host of unrelated IT problems, "and that's the basis of this decision that's going to cost the town a lot of money and even then there's a question about whether it will actually improve quality".


"It's a really sad day," he said. "We don't have a software problem in Munich, we have a problem with IT structure."


The council also backed the use of the use of "market standard" software, to provide "the highest possible compatibility" with "internal and external" software, casting doubt on the long-term use of open-source software such as LibreOffice and the Thunderbird email client, with some SPD politicians already talking about a return to Microsoft Office.

At the time Munich began the move to LiMux in 2004, it was one of the largest organizations to reject Windows, and Microsoft took the city's leaving so seriously that its then CEO Steve Ballmer flew to Munich, but the mayor at the time, Christian Ude, stood firm.


More recently, Microsoft last year moved its German company headquarters to Munich, and now, less than four years after the migration of some 15,000 staff to LiMux was completed, the city has taken a decisive step towards swapping the Linux-based OS for Windows—whose use has been reduced to a minimum in the city.

"The change to LiMux saved about €10m Euros. Spending that money to do another migration, which will not assert further improvements, instead of solving the real problems is quite a bad idea. After all we are talking about taxpayers money," said Nadine Englhart, chairperson of the Pirate Party in Munich.


The proposed move to Windows is being justified based on estimates, not revealed to the public on grounds of commercial sensitivity, that the move will save the council millions of euros by improving staff productivity.

For the move to save money overall, using Windows would need to be considerably more effective as an operating system, because past estimates have put the price of Munich returning to Windows at more than €17m.


This 2014 figure, produced by mayor of Munich Dieter Reiter, estimated it would cost €3.15m to buy new PC hardware needed to run Windows and that €14m of work to support LiMux and open-source software would have to be written off. These costs were for a return to Windows 7, and are likely to have increased further due to more work having taken place to support LiMux.

The figure also did not include software licensing and new infrastructure costs associated with Windows. He also revealed that the move to LiMux had saved the council about €11m in licensing and hardware costs, as the Ubuntu-based Linux operating system was less demanding than if it had upgraded to a newer version of Windows.

The Document Foundation, the organization that manages LibreOffice, said moving to Windows 10 and MS Office 2016 could cost the city close to €90m over the next six years, and also stressed that money would no longer be spent in the local economy.


It described a move away from open-source software as "a significant step backwards for the City of Munich, with a substantial increase in expenditure, an unknown amount of hidden cost related to interoperability, and a questionable usage of taxpayers money."


The proposal to move to Windows, put forward by the SPD and CSU coalition, is based on recommendations in a report released by Accenture and German consultancy arf. The consultants' report recommended investigating "whether it makes economic sense to continue using Linux as a client operating system", once a new Windows client was in place.

The consultants' report said the move to roll out Windows would be part of a larger €18.9m 'architecture and client' project. The four-year project would see Munich city council take on two new "Windows experts", who would help develop a "powerful" new Windows client for use by staff, it said.


The Green Party's Roth was skeptical that any money would be saved by moving to Windows, describing it as "not realistic".

Beyond being suspicious of the savings, Roth pointed out that the four-year timetable for switching to Windows wasn't realistic, pointing out that the LiMux migration and wider IT restructure had taken nine years, and the council was again about to reform the IT organization.


"We have several challenges surrounding IT. We have more citizens in Munich, we have the process of e-government, we have reform of the organization," he said.

"We have a lot of challenges and now, without need, we say we want to have another challenge, a migration to Microsoft and it's too much," he said, adding the council may also need to restructure its personnel, reducing open-source specialists and employing Windows experts.

"I think it will be a greater change than the people who proposed this believe," he said.

Is LiMux at the root of the problems?

Kristina Frank, party member with the CSU, said she is not opposed to open-source software but that the continued use of LiMux was no longer viable.

"I really don't care what the OS is called. I don't care where it comes from. For me all that matters is that it works," she said.


"We've taken this step because Munich is alone struggling against the tide. This experiment has not ended up where we would have liked it. Munich took a unusual path. Most workplaces in Germany and worldwide are running other clients. Linux may be the right choice for many users but it's not for Munich.


"Our LiMux client fundamentally works but it's not efficient or intuitive and there are regular problems when you have to add other software, regular compatibility problems."

Rather than blaming LiMux or the minority of Windows machines as being at the root of the problem, the report prepared by Accenture and arf identified issues and inconsistencies in how systems are managed and updated, with difficulties caused by the fragmented nature of its IT department and outdated backend infrastructure. The upshot, according to the consultants was "obsolete, partially unsafe, usually extremely cumbersome IT, leading to lots of wasted time and productivity".


Users complained of intermittent, rather than persistent, issues, with problems cited included printing, viewing and editing documents, unstable programs, poor usability and difficulty exchanging documents with outside parties.


On the point of difficulty swapping documents with external organizations, Roth pointed out that Accenture highlighted that switching that from LibreOffice to OpenOffice—which is currently under way—would be a good solution to these incompatibilities.


While employee surveys typically aren't especially critical of LiMux, OpenOffice or LibreOffice, correspondence with the council last year showed some departments blame the move to LiMux and other open-source software for their IT problems. However, Roth said these problems stemmed from the shortcomings in how IT is managed and outdated backend infrastructure highlighted by the consultants.

"Some of the staff don't know where the problem comes from and it is easy to say 'LiMux and OpenOffice'. In some departments the problems are more to do with the fact we're not using the newest versions [of software]," he said, referencing the slow speed at which updates are rolled out due to organizational problems in IT.


A member of Munich's IT department, who didn't want to be named, said the difficulties reported by staff aren't caused by the use of LiMux or open-source software but by inefficiencies in the multi-tiered structure of the IT organization in the city.


"The main issue is that there is no "IT department". Each department of the city administration has its own it personnel," he said.

"The organisational structure makes it nearly impossible to fix them fast and sustainably."

The council also backed a restructure of the city's IT department at the general meeting today, which the IT worker said would be sufficient to fix the problems.

"For 80% of the workstations running in Munich, the operating system doesn't matter," he said, adding that if the council agrees to replace LiMux with Windows at the same time as restructuring IT, "the problems will be solved and it looks like Windows has solved them, but it won't have".


Once the work needed to create a new Windows client has been assessed by the council, the full council will vote at a later date on whether to replace LiMux with the Windows client by the end of 2020.

The Pirate Party's Englhart suggested the move towards Windows was driven more by politics than being a sensible attempt to resolve issues with the council's IT.

"The governing coalition of SPD-CSU misinterpreted the report for their own convenience," said Nadine Englhart, chairperson of the Pirate Party in Munich.

The IT department representative saw the decision in the same light, saying, "It is not a technical or money-driven decision. It is only a political decision".


Paradoxically, given the appetite for returning to Windows, the proposal also stated that the ultimate goal should be for software used by the city to run "independently of the operating system of the end user's machine", suggesting the use of web applications, virtualization and remote desktop services.


Peter Hofmann, the then lead for the LiMux Project said in 2013 the goal for LiMux was not about saving money, but about freedom from relying on any one software vendor.

If Munich ultimately decides to return to Windows, The Document Foundation said Munich will be forgetting the main reason it left Microsoft behind in the first place.


By Nick Heath


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