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German Government Goes Linux

All levels of government will be able to purchase hardware running Linux programs.

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Germany's government said Monday it has agreed with computer maker IBM to increase the use of open-source software on its computers, a move aimed at reducing dependence on U.S. software giant Microsoft.

Interior Minister Otto Schily said using non-Microsoft operating systems based on the open-source Linux system would save money and improve the security of computer systems used by federal and local governments.

"We are raising computer security by avoiding of a monoculture, and we are lowering dependence on single suppliers," Schily said in a statement. "And so we are a leader in creating more diversity in the computer field."

Under the deal, IBM would give the government discounts on computers running Linux. The software installed on the IBM computers would be bought from German company SuSE, a major supplier of Linux-based software products.

The statement didn't disclose financial terms, but the contract will allow the German government -- on a federal, state and communal level -- to buy IBM hardware and software running Linux under competitive pricing conditions.

Unlike most commercial software, the underlying code in open-source software such as Linux is freely available and benefits from continual scrutiny and improvements made by a community of programmers. Proponents say that makes Linux more reliable and secure than products made by Microsoft and others -- a claim Microsoft disputes.

Though individual companies charge for the operating system, technical support and services, Linux versions can be downloaded legally for free on the Internet. Many companies and governments have turned to Linux as a low-cost alternative to Microsoft's Windows operating systems.

Thomas Baumgaertner, a spokesman for Microsoft's German subsidiary, said the government chose to ignore studies it had commissioned that favored Microsoft.

"Their own studies showed that an all-Microsoft environment was superior both technically and on price," said Baumgaertner.

Even with the decision, the German government remains a major customer for Microsoft products, he said.

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