German city dumps OpenOffice and switches to Microsoft

Freiburg will return to Microsoft Office because of severe compatibility problems using an open-source alternative

A majority of the city council in Freiburg, Germany, has voted in favor of ditching the open source suite OpenOffice to return to Microsoft Office after severe problems and complaints from employees.

The council voted 25 in favor and 20 against the decision with 2 abstentions in a vote on the switch on Tuesday afternoon, said Edith Lamersdorf, spokeswoman for the Freiburg city council in an email.

"So Freiburg will return to Microsoft Office," she said.

Last week the council revealed it was contemplating the switch when it said that its hopes and expectations for OpenOffice in 2007 were not fulfilled. Continuing to use the outdated OpenOffice 3.2.1 in combination with Microsoft Office 2000 would lead to more aggravation and frustration on the part of employees and external parties as well as performance impairments, the council said.

Employees had compatibility problems with text documents, spreadsheet and presentation files. The OpenOffice spreadsheet program Calc and presentation software Impress were seen as significantly underperforming compared to the Microsoft alternatives, according to the council.

After weighing its options, the only viable choice appeared to be migrating to Microsoft Office 2010, the council said.

Several open source groups protested the proposal on Friday in a last minute attempt to make the council change its mind, saying that it should at least consider upgrading to a current version of LibreOffice or OpenOffice, but that effort turned out to be futile.

Council member Timothy Simms of the Green party, who is in favor of using open source software, said in an email that he was "very disappointed," and that in the council debate there were "no good arguments in favor of Microsoft, no counter-arguments against our points."

If the council's budgetary plans are approved, the migration process could start by the middle of next year, the council spokeswoman said.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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