...ensure that the Linux desktop environment is more mature by the time Mannheim adopts it.
"In every new Linux version we see more Windows functionality," says Armbruster. "We want to move to Linux on the desktop when it has the same look and feel as Windows."
Armbruster did not say what version of Linux it plans on installing in the future, but he is a fan of Ubuntu, a free Linux distribution based on Debian. Ubuntu is the distribution that will be offered to city employees to try out at home, according to Armbruster.
"I think Ubuntu is very interesting, more interesting than SuSE or Red Hat's desktop products," he says. "I have friends who wanted to try Linux at home and when they installed SuSE or Red Hat they had 500 or 800 programs. You don't need 800 programs; with Ubuntu you get fewer applications,"
Why it's hard to move to open standards
Although other German cities echo Mannheim's view on the importance of open standards, many are reluctant to change as they have only recently moved to proprietary technologies, such as Active Directory, according to Armbruster.
There are other reasons why government agencies may find it hard to follow Mannheim's lead in adopting open standards. Mannheim is a long-term user of Unix, which has meant that the migration to Linux is easier than for organisations that predominantly use Microsoft software.
Cost is also likely to be a prohibitive factor for many government agencies. Mannheim's migration to Linux is expected to cost millions of Euros, a short-term cost that would be difficult to justify to senior management who are unlikely to fully understand the need for open standards.
The central German government is also more supportive of the use of open source software than some other European governments, such as the UK. It is difficult to imagine a UK council, under the current government's policy, spending millions of pounds to migrate away from proprietary standards.