Microsoft equips 110,000 PCs in German state

Even though interest in open source software is high in Germany’s public sector, Microsoft Corp. continues to grab contracts with local authorities.

This month the U.S. software giant began installing its new Office 2003 software in 110,000 PCs in North Rhine Westphalia (NRW), Germany’s largest and most populated state, Microsoft said in a statement Wednesday.

The decision to install the new Office product makes NRW the only German state operating every computer with uniform software, said Fritz Behrens, state interior minister, in the statement.

Using Extensible Markup Language (XML) as Office 2003’s document format helps NRW satisfy a requirement to establish a software platform, based on open standards, for seamless communications with all state employees, Wolfgang Branoner, director of public sector sales at Microsoft’s German subsidiary, said in the statement.

The NRW contract comes as numerous state and local governments consider dumping Microsoft for open source software products, such as the Linux operating system and OpenOffice, in an effort to reduce their software costs.

One large German city government has already axed Microsoft. In May, after several months of intensive research and political debate, the Munich city government decided to migrate its entire computer network to the open source Linux operating system, dropping the Windows system in the process.

In June, Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Interior presented a list of guidelines for federal, state and local governments as well as other public sector agencies interested in migrating their computer systems to open source software, including Linux.

Microsoft has sought ways to retain huge public sector software contracts in Germany after the government, in an effort to lower costs and increase security, agreed with IBM Corp. last year to use computers with Linux operating systems in federal, state and local governments.