Recently I've written about several moves towards mandating openness in various ways – in the UK, Spain and Portugal. That's all well and good, but what people want to know is whether moving to open solutions brings benefits – in particular, whether it saves money. Fortunately, we have a long-running experiment being carried out by the city of Munich that provides us with some hard data.
According to the calculation, Windows with Microsoft Office would so far have incurred about ‚¬11.6 million (£9.3 million) in operating-system-related costs. Microsoft Office and its upgrades would have cost ‚¬4.2 million (£3.3 million), and the Windows system about ‚¬2.6 million (£2.1 million). The LiMux project allowed a further ‚¬5 million (£4 million) for hardware upgrades in connection with the Windows 7 system upgrade. Application migration costs were estimated to be around ‚¬55,000 (£44,000). If the city council had chosen Windows but used OpenOffice, the estimated cost would have been about two thirds, or ‚¬7.4 million (£5.9 million).
That compares with just £218,000 that has been spent on the free software-based solution using the city's own LiMux distro. As well as zero costs for software upgrades, the open source approach also saved money because it was not necessary to upgrade hardware, unlike for Windows – something that is worth remembering.
Against that background, the decision of the city of Freiburg to move back to Microsoft Office, discussed recently, seems particularly perverse. Perhaps they should have asked their colleagues in Munich for a little advice first.
Update: thanks to a comment below from Kevin Krammer, I've learned that the German city of Leipzig is also migrating to OpenOffice.org. Here's the entry on the Munich city blog with some details:
The city of Leipzig has started this year a migration to OpenOffice.org and visited Munich to exchange experiences. The free and open source office software is now installed on 3900 of 4200 PC workstations and serves as a standard office program in the administration. A working group is currently working on the integration of business applications with OpenOffice.org.
Hannes Kastner, the IT coordinator for the city of Leipzig, says: "The move to the Office package is the first major open source project in the municipality of Leipzig. The aim is to reduce the dependency on proprietary software."
That's really good news that goes some way to compensating for the less happy move in Freiburg, not least because it sounds like it could become something bigger with time. Let's hope.