When a customer looks abroad, send in the CEO

When a customer looks abroad, send in the CEO

None other than Microsoft Chief Executive Officer, Steve Ballmer, paid a personal visit to Munich city mayor, Christian Ude, at the end of last month to drum up support for the company's operating system software, that faces growing competition from open-source Linux, according to a report in the German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, citing people familiar with the situation.

Munich, which is widely viewed as the IT capital of Germany, is considering a switch from Microsoft to Linux following a study that claims the city will save money and increase security with open-source software, the newspaper reported.

Microsoft is worried that if a big German city like Munich falls into the Linux camp, others will follow, according to the report.

The software company is keeping a tight lid on details of the talk.

"We can confirm that Steve Ballmer was in Munich at the end of last month to visit the Mayor," said a spokesman from Microsoft in Unterschleissheim, Germany. "Their conversation was confidential, so there's nothing more we can say."

The spokesman declined to comment on whether the Munich city government was reviewing its software strategy.

Officials at the city government could not be immediately reached.

Last year, government officials in Munich commissioned the consultancy Unilog Integrata in Tübingen, Germany, to conduct a study on software options, the newspaper reported. The consultancy recommended the Linux operating system together with free open-source office software.

In an effort to retain the city government as a paying customer, Ballmer had agreed to be flexible on prices, the newspaper reported, without providing details.

The CEO's visit appears to have paid off. The Munich city government decided to postpone its software decision until May 28, according to the report.

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