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23 December 2009, 15:09

Vienna: Windows and Linux to coexist

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Based on the results of a recently announcedPDF study it has been decided that the municipal authority of the City of Vienna will not at present be shifting entirely to open source for its software needs. Rather administrative staff will have the choice of running either Windows and Microsoft Office or Linux (in the form of Wienux, a Debian/Ubuntu-based custom distribution) and OpenOffice on their desktop.

Apparently the full contents of the German language study, called "Open source software in the workplace at Vienna municipal authority – evaluation of previous efforts and development of future alternative solutions", have not yet been released to the public. The reason for the decision given in the study's summary is that "more than half of PC workstations use software products for which no Linux alternatives are available without migration investments". In view of this, the authors of the study consider a long-term coexistence of Windows and Linux the only viable solution.

Like Munich and Berlin, the Austrian capital used to be considered a stronghold of the open source movement and for some time, all across Europe, various branches of local government have been considering the switch to open source. There have even been some stories of limited success, such as Munich's LiMux project. As long ago as 2005 Vienna had announced plans to convert to open source, but even then the expectation was that the change would be a soft migration rather than an abrupt change.

The motivation to switch to open source is to minimise the proportion of local budgets spent on software and to avoid 'lock in' where the use of proprietary software results in frequent upgrade costs and the cost of new licenses for any increase in staffing levels. The problem is that most local government already has a heavy investment in Windows technology, so switching to open source would not be without problems and associated costs. Although much open source software is free, the support costs must also be considered. As noted in the Viennese study, often the decision not to migrate is based on the need to run specialised software where high quality examples are only available for the Windows platform. For example Vienna's kindergartens recently reverted to Windows when an essential application was not supported under Linux.


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