Statement by The Document Foundation about the upcoming discussion at the City of Munich to step back to Windows and MS Office

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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