Debian wins Munich Linux deal

Bavarian city passes over Novell's Suse Linux for a high-profile, 14,000-computer installation.

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Stephen Shankland
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The city of Munich has opted to use the Debian version of Linux for a high-profile, 14,000-computer installation, passing over Novell's Suse Linux despite its regional popularity.

Debian is a noncommercial version of Linux, though some companies such as Canonical and Progeny have based products on it. Two regional companies, Gonicus and Softcon, will help Munich with the project, called LiMux.

Linux has been most popular on servers, powerful networked machines typically run by computer experts, but the open-source operating system is slowly catching on for desktop use in some areas. European governments are a particularly ripe market.

Munich's contract award is the latest step in its drawn-out migration of personal computers from Windows to Linux, a project whose profile was high enough to attract Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer's personal attention in 2003.

But there still is a way to go: The city said it won't be able to begin the actual transition until the end of the year. And the project had been delayed in 2004 by legal complications.

Munich is the capital of Bavaria, the southern German state where Suse Linux was headquartered until its acquisition in 2004 by Novell. Suse remains popular in German-speaking countries.

But in announcing the Debian deal earlier in April, the city was seeking "the greatest possible vendor-independence," LiMux project leader Peter Hofmann said in a statement.

Novell didn't comment on the deal, but a representative confirmed the company had bid for the project. Suse and IBM had helped Munich evaluate Linux in 2003.

Gonicus and Softcon offered two alternatives, and Munich chose Debian, said Alfred Schroeder of Gonicus. The companies bid against IBM, Electronic Data Systems and Deutsche Telekom's T-Systems, among others, he said.