August 5, 2004 6:27 AM PDT

Munich halts biggest-ever Linux migration

The biggest-ever Windows-to-Linux migration--the city of Munich's 14,000 desktops--has been put on ice while legal issues are settled.

The switch has been temporarily suspended over fears incoming EU legislation could cause the city a huge patent headache. Jens Muehlhaus, Munich's pro-Linux, Green Party alderman, has spotted 50 potential patent problems. Until they've been sorted, the migration is on hold.

The planned call for bids on the "LiMux project"--due for next week--has been stopped as Muelhaus feared that as the result of a patent clash, the city could be forced to pay extra licensing fees or even shut down its IT systems.

Open-source advocate Bruce Perens said Wednesday that the holdup actually stems from politics: The Green Party is using the issue to try to reverse government support for new patent laws in Europe.

"This was a bit of a political set piece," he said in a talk at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in San Francisco. "It's just a little theatrical. They've held up the deployment to make a political statement."

According to the Open Source Risk Management Association, Linux may infringe 283 patents. And a recently unearthed memo from HP states that "basically Microsoft is going to use the legal system to shut down open-source software."

The city of Munch, however, is standing by its decision to switch and maintains the holdup is temporary. Before embarking on the migration, Munich carried out a year-long feasibility study with help from IBM and Novell-owned SuSE.

The deal was seen as so significant that the proposed changeover even got Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to try to persuade the mayor of Munich in person.

Munich has taken the lead in public sector Windows-to-Linux switches and was followed last month by Bergen, Norway. Vienna has also been eyeing a switch but has recently decided to offer a choice of either open source or Windows to half its users next year, with a review to follow in 2006.

Jo Best of Silicon.com reported from London. CNET News.com's Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.

 

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