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Open Source Advocates Rolling Over To Microsoft

There has always been a small and vocal community advocating the adoption of open source software and standards over Microsoft's proprietary offerings. For individuals and small businesses this is an option which could lead to lower costs. In the enterprise it's an entirely different matter.
Having been asked on a number of occasions to look at the feasibility of moving large organisations to an open source software solution I have always found that the promise of lower upfront costs falls down once the total cost of ownership is considered. Then there are the technical, compatibility and training considerations to address.
That doesn't stop me running Ubuntu and Libre Office on several machines at home, however I have yet to see a well made argument for doing the same in the enterprise. So you can imagine my surprise when government organisations announce they are going the open source route for their IT solutions.
Once such was Munich City Council, which took Linux and Open Office over Microsoft back in 2004. After ten years of what sounds like complete chaos the City's technology leaders are looking to move back to Windows and Office 365.
The biggest issues relate to the not quite accurate translation of documents between Office users outside the organisation and Open Office users inside it. However there are also detailed issues with missing software support and lack of features.
None of these problems are inherently Linux issues, however the out of the box functionality of a Windows  authentication, desktop and application suite can't be easily replicated in the open source world and that looks like a major issue in Munich.
It's not an isolated case either, also this week the Italian municipality of Pesaro, which ditched Office for Open Office in 2011, has decided to call time on the project and revert to Office 365. The result of compatibility issues, training needs and a failure to support Excel functionality in Open Office that meant a hybrid solution had to be retained for some users.
Costs spiralled out of control and as a result Pesaro's annual spend was more than twice as much on its Open Office solution than it would have been if it had stuck to Office in the first place.
Ultimately for any enterprise thinking of moving away from Microsoft the biggest hurdle is going to be compatibility. The whole business world uses Microsoft Office and no-one yet has been able to build an open source product which captures enough functionality and maintains sufficient compatibility to allow its use in an otherwised Microsoft world.
That, more than training issues, technical shortcomings, user inertia and migration cost is the biggest hurdle in the way of Linux adoption in the enterprise.


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