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Munich move shows Microsoft has not changed one whit

There was a time some years ago when Microsoft would do anything, no matter how it looked to outsiders, to clinch a business deal.

With the advent of Satya Nadella as chief executive in place of the pugnacious Steve Ballmer, Microsoft has tried to sell the narrative that the company had now learned its lessons from head-butting and decided to become a less combative entity in the technology space.

But this appears to be just spin, judging from the tactics that Microsoft is indulging in to obtain a contract from the city of Munich to move its computers from Linux to Windows.

The whole thing stinks. A pro-Microsoft mayor takes office, Microsoft moves its German corporate office to Munich and suddenly the city wants to go back to Windows, shelling out €90 million of public money in the process.

The report that was commissioned to find out what issues, if any, existed with the current set-up, was done by — hold your breath — Accenture, Microsoft's Alliance Partner of the Year in 2016.

Accenture also runs a joint business with Microsoft called Avanade that helps businesses implement Microsoft technologies.

But even with the obvious bias involved, Accenture could not come down on the side of Microsoft too openly after finding that it was mostly administrative issues that were causing problems at the city.

The mess that exists in Munich is evident from its current set-up. The city moved about 15,000 desktops to LiMux, a modified version of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, but still has a little more than 4000 Windows desktops for applications that can only run on this platform.

It seems to have highly incompetent IT staff judging from the fact that only about 45% of machines run LiMux 5.x which is based on Ubuntu 12.04 that was released in April 2012. The last version of Ubuntu, released in October 2016, is version 16.04. Another 32% of the LiMux machines are on version 4.1 and the balance run LiMux 4.0, both based on even older versions of Ubuntu.

When it comes to Windows, about 77% run Windows 7, a further 9% run Windows XP/Vista and 14% run Windows 2000. Windows XP and 2000 are needed for some applications that run 41 applications. It is pertinent to note that none of 2000, XP, and Vista are supported by Microsoft.

Given the fact that even Accenture pointed out that the question of which operating system should be run was rather a moot point as using Web-based software-as-a-service was not far away, one has to wonder why there is this indecent haste about switching back. Accenture added that Munich should look at the option that was cost-effective for the moment.

When Munich made the initial decision to move to Linux, Ballmer himself flew in and offered as much as a 90% discount for the city to stick with Windows and upgrade from Windows 98 and NT to Windows XP. What kind of discounts are being offered this time?

Is it cost-effective to blow up €90 million of public money just to line your company's coffers? One would think that a company that has been painting itself as a good corporate citizen and one that mouths slogans such as "Microsoft loves Linux", would advise the city of Munich to go in for a Web-based software-as-a-service option. That way costs would be kept down. Microsoft would make some money and come out looking good.

But it looks like Microsoft is more interested in two rounds of income: one, from moving the whole caboodle back to Windows, and then one more from moving Munich to a Web-based software-as-a-service set-up.

It has been said of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates that about the only thing that bothers him is the amount of money that is in other people's pockets and not in his own. That culture dominated the company while he was there; it seems to be alive and well today too.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.