German state wants to replace Windows and Office with Linux and LibreOffice

The German state of Schleswig-Holstein wants to replace all Microsoft Office software with open source software within four years. The computers will run LibreOffice and browser software. All Windows computers will also run on Linux.

The state will transfer at least 25,000 systems to open source software, said Minister Jan Philipp Albrecht in an interview with c’t Magazine. These are the systems of all officials in the state, but also of all teachers. Albrecht says that the contracts it concludes with suppliers of proprietary software are no longer current. They cost too much money and hinder the digitization of data. “Open source offers more flexibility,” he says in the interview. Sovereignty and data protection also play a role in the choice.

Albrecht gives video conferencing tools as an example. During the pandemic, officials had to use them more, but many tools wouldn’t be good for that because they can’t be scaled. In Schleswig-Holstein this would have happened faster than in other states and countries because open source Jitsi was used for that. Albrecht also wants to replace Office with LibreOffice in the long term. The government’s IT department has been working on this for two years. A lot of office work is also done in the browser, which has to be done with the Phoenix package from Dataport.

The move to LibreOffice and browser software should be completed before the end of 2026. In addition, the state wants all computers to run on Linux, but Albrecht has not yet mentioned a concrete date for this. Five different Linux distros are being tested, but the final distribution has not yet been determined. The total costs of the OSS implementation will be ‘roughly equal’ to those of proprietary software, Albrecht expects.

There are more experiments with open source software in Germany, but not always successfully. In Munich, the government tried to switch to LiMux, but failed and the board switched back to Windows after complaints from users. According to Albrecht, Schleswig-Holstein has learned from the mistakes made there. In particular, employees are more involved in the process, and the lead time is longer.