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Munich to Go Ahead with Linux After All 142

Saeed al-Sahaf writes "According to Groklaw and the German publication Heise (it's in German, of course) Munich's mayor Christian Ude has held a press conference, in which he said that the bidding process for the switch from Windows to Linux will go forward as originally planned, despite patent issues. InfoWorld (in English), quotes Bernd Plank, a spokesman for Munich town hall, saying that he expected that the administration would take a maximum of 'two to three weeks' to decide whether the EU's Directive on software patents could affect the city's plan to switch to Linux, and that would be no 'dramatic setback.'" We reported this earlier as well, but now that it's making the rounds again in English, more of us can read it without resorting to Babelfish.
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Munich to Go Ahead with Linux After All

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  • Discounts? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HexDoll ( 778270 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @03:21PM (#9942098) Homepage Journal
    Did Microsoft not lower their prices enough at the mention of them going to Linux?
  • Why (Score:2, Interesting)

    by garompa ( 714684 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @03:21PM (#9942104)
    Would the city of Munich care about the UE software patents issues ?
  • Re:Discounts? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by djfray ( 803421 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @03:31PM (#9942185) Homepage
    is this your pathetic way of again trying to demonize microsoft? Because, as I said, that was pretty pathetic. When you complain and complain about them lowering prices to beat out competitors, and then they actually don't do it, like you've been pleading for them to do, you make sarcastic comments about it. This isn't nearly as interesting as it is flameworthy
  • by i_should_be_working ( 720372 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @03:41PM (#9942274)
    i forgot where i read this, probably linux today or here at slashdot. but apparently the guy who stalled the linux implementation because of the patent problem is in the Green Party [] which is very much for open source and against software patents.
    the article suggests that stopping the linux roll out and citing software patents as a roadblock was a way to wake up the government and public to get them to see why software patents is a bad idea
  • by Elektroschock ( 659467 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @03:54PM (#9942370)
    Call it a auto-da-fe Public relations of the Limux project. They didn't expect the media reaction in Munich, so they cooled it down. They didn't want to spread FUD about the Limux oproject, they wanted to say that software patents are dangerous for them and cause costs. They wanted to urge the German Government to stop software patents [].

    Even FFII was surprised about Munich's initial press release, Hartmut Pilch wrote []:

    We were surprised by the announcement of Wilhelm Hoegner and the mayor. I learnt from both only through the media.
    Yet I think their message is exactly to the point.

    Municipalities must assess the risk caused by software patents. Some government authorities in Sweden and the UK have already seen themselves forced to litigate against frivolous software patent claims in order to retain their freedom to do basic day-to-day business. Interestingly, in these cases there was no Linux or free software involved. Yet, it can not be denied that solutions supplied by local SMEs on the basis of free software, as envisaged by Munich's IT strategy, involve greater patent risks than a contract with a single big supplier such as IBM or Microsoft. In any case it is the normal procedure to try to assess the risk and insure it, be it through the supplier or through a separate insurance. Recent estimates from the US suggest that such a patent insurance could cost more than 100,000 eur per year. The costs would be very similar in Europe, if the Council's political agreement, for which the German government and other national governments have been fighting, became law. If, on the other hand, the European Parliament's version of the directive was adopted, the risk would drop to zero.

    It is a good exercise for municipal governments to estimate patent risks in terms of insurance costs, and it would be an even better exercise for national governments to start serious assessment of the effects of legislation. No such calculation has to date been made, in spite of regular calls from Brussels to do so -- not to speak of calls from FFII to calculate the macro-economic costs of the various legislative options. The message from the Munich's mayor is therefore timely and should be heeded by other municipalities and governments, regardless of whether they plan to deploy free operating systems or not.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @04:11PM (#9942522)
    The switch is mostly in the hands of SuSE/Novell and IBM. For them, this is a showcase project. If they can pull it off there, they can expect a lot of followup business.

    I guess they'll do their best, whatever that is :)
  • Re:Discounts? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @04:19PM (#9942593) Homepage Journal
    Maybe there is more in it than just price, ya know...

    IIRC, there was. The Munich government reps who were involved in the decision making were insensed that Microsoft didn't make their best offer when asked the first time, but in steps. I certainly know enough people who would have jumped at Microsoft's offer, but the germans were apparently insulted. There's also the likelihood that they were focused on Long Term TCO rather than short term, which was all Microsoft was really offering them. Look at what's going on with Microsoft since, all the patching (which in recent stories highlights the expense of testing, certifying and accepting patches and understanding their impact on software already in use.)

    They're showing uncharacteristic good sense and courage in making such a decision... one would almost be convinced these weren't bureaucrats, but aliens who have taken the place of the bureaucrats.

  • Re:Discounts? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @04:33PM (#9942702)
    Even though the Linux proposal is more expensive, a lot of that money stays in (i.e. helps) Germany's economy whereas with the Microsoft solution, essentially 100% leaves the country (i.e. enriches Microsoft). Perhaps that had something to do with the decision.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @05:03PM (#9942925)
    Korea-Japan-China initiative to develop an alternative OS was to depend less on the US software industry. The result was Red Flag Linux.

    I don't think Red Flag has anything to do with the Asian OS project. The CJK "alternative OS" project began last year or so, but Red Flag [] started in 1999. Most importantly, it only supports Chinese, not Korean or Japanese. Although KDE's standard tool sets may have other two languages available, I doubt that Red Flag's own management tools do. The Asian alternative OS is yet to come out.

    I still have to agree with you on your comment. Non-US governments are moving so that they don't have to depend heavily on products of US corporations. The impact of this move is more than money-saving.

  • Asia (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @05:05PM (#9942946)
    Everyone's focused on Europe and America. The battle of MSFT and SCOX and patent.

    Not paying any attention to China and Korea. China has the man (and woman) power to develop and manufacture their own processors. And they're already switching over to Red Flag. At some point, companies on both sides will have to exchange documents in a format that is intra-compatible. More than likely, American companies will convert their documents to something the Chinese can use, negating MSFT Office's proprietary format. The only way MSFT could combat this, directly and in their current spirit, is by not allowing conversions from within Office or Windows.

    I honestly believe China will bail us out of this whole mess. Just give them a bit more time; they're industrious people.
  • Re:Why (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Teun ( 17872 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @05:22PM (#9943039) Homepage
    Most countries around the world are not flooded with lawyers like it is here in the U.S.

    I recently heard that *half* of all legal books published around the world are in German.
    The reason being that German (especially tax) law is so complicated.

    Even when this story is only half true it would be remarkable.

    Of course there is not necessarilly a lawyer for every book :-)

  • Re:Show respect (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Wudbaer ( 48473 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @05:26PM (#9943058) Homepage
    You know, I am in Germany, too, not far from Munich also (Ulm).

    I know that it seems to be the thing to do at the moment over here (as well as in other Western countries) if you are a larger employer to go running around demanding all kind of silly stuff and shouting "Do to my bidding, or I will move to Elbonia/fire all my workers and replace them by robots or do something else undesirable". But to be honest, those companies either never put up or they wanted to do those unpopular things in the first place and were just looking for a pretense so the public blames politics and not those companies.

    Part of this used to be part of the usual haggling between companies and cities about tax advantages, subsidizing, whatever, and usually both of them got something out of it to show for their efforts. Today some companies (Siemens, Daimler etc.) seem not to understand what is decent and reasonable and what not and I am sure the public will pay them back sooner or later one way or the other.

    Regarding Microsoft: If MS really would state to the major of Munich that they would leave the city if Munich does not buy MS they would make themselves look like complete fools. And by that they would basically force the city to decline any offer MS could make, for ever, even if they paid them money to install their software. MS is a lot, but they are neither stupid nor bad tacticians.

    That doesn't mean that they don't tell the relevant people "Oh ! Don't buy that hobbyist stuff ! Bad things will happen !" But every company does that when a customer wants to leave (a former co-worker experienced something like that when switching a large project from IBM to Sun some years ago, it must really have been funny), and all those threats and promises do not have any real meaning and value.
  • by YU Nicks NE Way ( 129084 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @05:27PM (#9943061)
    If they'd had a single clue to rub together, much less two, they'd have gone about this in a different way. What they've done is make themselves worse off. First, they tried to blackmail Europe with one small politically-motivated project in one city. Then, when the EU called their bluff, they turn around and say, basically, "Didn't mean it! Don't worry, we were just trying to scare you." That's not going to stop software patents in Europe. It only makes the opponents of software patents look foolish and out of touch with reality. (Of course, that could be said of the Greens in general, but...)

    The city could have done much better. For instance, Munich could have applied to the EC asking for a grandfather clause in the patent legislation, arguing that the current proposal essentially criminalizes acts which were legal at the time they were committed. Alternatively, after their first stunt, they could have recovered by saying: "No, we haven't stopped the process indefinitely, we're waiting for this committee to report to reopen bidding." Instead, they're reopening bidding with some vague contingency that they'll stop if the committee reports the wrong way.

    So, somebody please send these guys a clue. I'm told that air freight is really cheap these days.
  • by luh3417 ( 778061 ) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @09:39PM (#9944625)
    Major corporations all own a war chest of patents. Clearly, they are not engaged in endemic warfare over each and every patent, though they could be. Instead, they simply cross-license their patents, in a form of detente. However, any small upstart corporations have nothing to bargain with, and can be attacked and suppressed.

    One of Linux's large benefactors needs to step up and protect Linux under the aegis of their existing patent portfolio, with some kind of cross-licensing arrangement. Or HP or IBM buys Novell to the same effect. If they care enough about screwing Microsoft to the wall they will need to protect linux (define it somehow) in this manner eventually.

    Software patents have gotten out of hand but at least linux has a godfather or two that can and should step in to defend it. IBM or HP should make some announcement about cross licensing some patents to linux dispel the evil spin being applied to linux in the current press. A small portfolio of patents that is enough to make Microsoft or anyone hoping to attach linux on patent grounds realize their own weaknesses and want to avoid endless retaliatory patent litigation.

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