The shot heard ’round the computer world?

By | July 16, 2003

The decision by the City of Munich to switch from Windows to Linux is a huge deal in the computer world. Munich has become the first major organization to embrace Linux for both servers and desktops (up until that point, organizations were switching to Linux servers but keeping their Windows desktops). This marks a significant point in history, as Linux is suddenly being viewed as a potential replacement for Microsoft’s crown jewel: the desktop OS.

This article gives background information on the Munich deal. Microsoft fought tooth-and-nail to win the Munich contract. Microsoft reduced their licensing fees twice, agreed to give Munich a six-year license (instead of the traditional five) and – probably the biggest concession – offered to allow Munich to purchase standalone Microsoft Word, instead of the much more expensive Microsoft Office. (For years, corporations have said that they don’t want to have to buy Microsoft Office, but are forced to since Microsoft Word was not available as a stand-alone product under bulk licensing.) To keep from losing to Linux, Microsoft was willing to sabotage some of their own licensing practices.

Even with all of these incentives, however, Munich decided to go with a Linux solution from IBM and SuSE. The main reason is control: the Linux solution gives Munich control over their software and their update cycle. Munich can wait for 10 years to upgrade, or they can upgrade in two years. It’s their decision. With Microsoft, Munich would have to upgrade in six years, whether they wanted to or not.

Microsoft has created a situation where it is a better choice for customers to choose their competitors. As Linux continues to improve, more customers are going to follow Munich and make the switch.

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