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Linux replaces Windows in one German state's bid for software independence

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Microsoft Edge Linux (Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Schleswig-Holstein plans to shift roughly 25,000 PCs from Windows to Linux.
  • Microsoft Office will also be replaced by Libre Office.
  • The goal is to move the public sector in the direction of free and open-source software.

When one thinks of business or government computing, Windows and Microsoft Office are typically the de facto go-to. But that's not the case anymore for the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, which is planning on converting its public sector machines to the Linux and Libre side of the force by 2026.

This shift will involve around 25,000 PCs in total, as reported by the Document Foundation (additional figures can be found in Schleswig-Holstein's plan documentation [via Heise]). The idea behind the change is that free and open-source software should be given priority. A benefit from moving to Linux and Libre is forecasted to be saving money on licensing costs, though there are expense complications to be considered in terms of the migration itself and the costs of operational infrastructure when conducting state business through Linux and other open-source software.

The rise of cloud solutions is one of the reasons this open-source agenda may succeed where previous German attempts haven't. The most notable previous attempt was the LiMux plan that was set to convert Munich to open-source software. That plan fell apart for a variety of reasons, with some claiming it was due to software conflicts brought about by Linux (via Ars Technica). There's more to the LiMux saga; it's a bit of a rabbit hole that includes accusations of corporate backscratching. But at least on the surface, the reasons for Munich's retreat to Windows are straightforward.

Time will tell if Schleswig-Holstein's initiative ends up the same way. For now, goodbye Windows 10 and Windows 11, and hello Tux.

Robert Carnevale is the News Editor for Windows Central. He's a big fan of Kinect (it lives on in his heart), Sonic the Hedgehog, and the legendary intersection of those two titans, Sonic Free Riders. He is the author of Cold War 2395. Have a useful tip? Send it to robert.carnevale@futurenet.com.

19 Comments
  • Failure after failure but lets experiment with this yet again. Here's the thing, the private sector is not anti-open source, they will leverage it when it makes sense. If using Linux desktop clients and an open source Office suite made their employees more productive and made it easier to work with other businesses and government, etc they would all be using it. They don't. You have to train staff who already know how to use Windows, win-apps, and Office. Professional apps are built to work with Office. Compatibility is more problematic between customers. etc. Plus Office is not just a front end product but has a huge back end integration with identity management, document control, integration with Teams, etc. And translate this to government as their needs are almost the same. You simply are not going to save money with this.
  • In a different article I have read that they said Libre Office could is cross compatible with Microsoft office right down to comments. I've written stuff in libre (word?) for uni and not one of my markers noticed
  • I recall reading about Munich's demigration back when it happened. I'm sure that things have changed somewhat since then but I wonder whether anyone from Schleswig-Holstein spoke to anyone from Munich to find out why they switched back and whether the same issues may apply to them.
  • It seems clear they feel more confident this time around, likely due to the cloud filling some of the software gaps Munich failed to overcome.
  • Pointless exercise. What they save in licensing they’ll spend in IT Support.
  • Even if they did the amount of money they could save by using by using much slower hard drives is enormous. Windows hard drive management is worse than every other major OS. Additionally windows stability compared to Mac, android, Linux an IOS, is a joke. Linux is already almost exclusively used for backend servers. This is just moving it to being used by staff
  • Yup. Linux powers the servers of the world for many reasons, two of which are its lightweight-ness (just inventing words here) and its stability. Linux servers can run for years without needing a reboot and without pooping themselves even once. Whether it's "pointless" or not is irrelevant, you're not the one making the decision. And generally people who assume "IT support" will be an issue can't be that familiar. Tons of Linux distros these days are easy to use with better looking UIs than Windows. If it's just a front end for apps, there's no reason it can't work. If they already relied entirely on Microsoft services this wouldn't even be happening. Not sure why they need to replace PCs though, just slap Linux on the existing boxes. They'll last forever.
  • I guess these PCs are really old with 100 Mbit Ethernet? Or someone just wants new PC hardware lol. Which would have been a profitable flip. But in this current market, not as much as getting exact 25,000 PCs specced the same is going to be a struggle. So they will have to pay hefty premiums. If they are not specced the same, you are just asking for trouble lol. As IT issues are notorious, highly illogical gremlins and will spring out from nowhere. It's also something very obscure that's causes the issue in the first place lol.
  • Oh man, that's such a category error. You're not taking the context of the environment into account here at all. There's a reason why desktop Linux never ends up succeeding. Look, the core of the OS is great, some of the distros have come a long way on UX, and when it's configured properly and managed correctly it works brilliantly. Which is part of why it's so dominant in server settings and why very technically savvy users like it so much. But do you know what doesn't exist in server settings? Low technical competency end users. Random software installs. People fiddling with config settings they don't understand. Linux is an absolute mess when it comes to resiliency to bad user decisions. It's very easy to very badly break a Linux distribution by doing stupid things. This is even a problem with server deployments done by people who have a much better sense of what they're doing, sometimes catastrophically, but it's one of those necessary evils there. Everything is a billion times worse with typical office workers. And all that flexibility in terms of configuration means it lacks consistency. Core UX flows can vary from device to device depending on what the user opted to install or change. That's a training and support nightmare. And don't underestimate the pain involved in training; I was once told that we could not upgrade away from a 10+ year old piece of software that still used a command line interface without a revolt from the secretarial staff, because they were used to it and had all been using it for a decade (very low turn over) even though the newest version was much better and easier to use. The vast majority of office workers do not understand how computers work, they just have a script they know how to follow when they want to do specific things. Changing that script is seriously painful. All of the things power users love about Linux is exactly why it fails in large scale office deployments. Over and over again. It's a mess to manage at scale (again, not talking server here where the scale deployment is at least consistent), it's fragile to bad configs or users trying to do something they shouldn't be, package compatibility needs to be strictly managed, etc etc. And that's before getting into things like document compatibility and training costs, or issues with driver support and hardware peripheral compatibility. Or cross version compatibility, dependency mismatches, etc. And yes almost all of that has a solution, but almost none of it has a solution that is resilient to your average office worker touching it. IT costs are higher simply by the nature of the OS. It's a less predictable environment with more places that things can go very wrong and that requires a lot more knowledge and effort to manage well. (And I can't speak to Germany, but in most places Windows IT is going to have more competition and lower prices than desktop Linux). Training costs are typically prohibitive as well. Productivity almost always takes a significant hit when they do these kinds of transitions. Everyone's learning Windows and Office through higher education and other jobs, so that cost doesn't go away completely either. Eventually cloud driven solutions might end up working as an alternative to Windows and Office, but they'll look more like Chromebook than desktop Linux.
  • There are also significantly more up front IT costs to do a desktop Linux deployment, because nothing will work well out of the box. So someone needs to sit down and figure out the precise requirements you have and set up everything to work well with them as a unified package. Windows provides a ton of base functionality out of the box and app deployment is generally not a huge issue. Even just choosing a Linux distro requires specialized knowledge. Everything about the ecosystem is exactly backwards from what you want for office work at scale.
  • LINUX (like all UNIX decendants) is a sophisticated OS crafted by computing experts for computing experts. And it sweats the plumbing, on general principles. It's all about the OS. Windows, MacOS, and ChromeOS are *commercial* products created for consumers. MacOS and ChromeOS both aim to minimize complexity for end users through consistency and simplicity. Windows, with roots dating back to IBM and the PCDOS corporate world, aims for flexibility, letting users choose from multiple approaches. Their goal is just getting things done. Their businesses are about users. LINUX evangelists (and to a lesser extent Mac and Chrome promoters) pin their message on "we're better!". If you go to youtube you'll find a dozen or more alternative OSes, with roots in OS/2, Amiga, VMX, Smalltalk, whatever. All proclaiming they are "better because..." for different values of "better". They might even be. But it doesn't matter. "Better" is about bragging. The Windows proposition, on the other hand, boils down to "we're good enough, we're already everywhere, we're more flexible, and we're better supported". Windows is everywhere because Windows is everywhere. And because, like in the mainframe era, nobody gets fired for betting on Windows. Windows gets things done and like Adam Osbourne used to say, good enough is good enough.
  • You do know deep down macOS is unix as well, right?
  • Very deep.
    (By those standards, KINDLE and Android are UNIX.)
    And Apple wants you to forget it: look at their messaging, it's all about the user experience, not the plumbing.
    That's the very reason "the year of desktop LINUX" isn't. There's a real world computing truism that IT folk have been ignoring since the days of ALTAIR: People don't buy plumbing, they buy solutions.l
    LINUX prospers where it offers a competitive solution. The desktop ain't it.
  • It really isn't. Consumer grade harddrives are cheap and the performance deltas are minimal in office work scenarios. There are no hardware cost savings on storage to be had.
  • Good luck with that.
  • Cute. Wake me up when this inevitably fails and they're back to using Windows again. Makes for good news on a slow day however.
  • Windows Microsoft is garbage Linux is simple and more secure than Microsoft and faster and updates don't take forever unlike Microsoft windows Linux Ubuntu is my favorite and tail's os is nice also anything Linux is Great and steam gaming works on linux and Ubuntu people complain you can't game with Linux or Ubuntu steam works
  • You hit all the standard LINUX talking points.
    Good job.
  • LINUX vs WINDOWS (and MACOS and ChromeOS) is mostly "Oranges vs Cider".
    LINUX is a technology, not a product.
    The proper comparison would be one on one, Windows (Home, Pro, or Server) versus a specific distro: see who they target, how they fare with them. And in this instance, how tbey fare in the desktop market.