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IBM Looks To Break Windows

IBM joins forces with Red Hat, Novell and Canonical to push Linux distributions onto the desktop.

IBM Corp. and Linux OS distributors Red Hat Inc., Novell and Ubuntu sponsor Canonical Ltd. are joining forces with their hardware partners to create what they're calling "Microsoft-free personal-computing choices."

This won't be the first time big players have endeavored to displace Microsoft's venerable stronghold on the desktop. In this latest effort, Big Blue and its partners plan to bundle their Linux distributions with IBM's Open Collaboration Client Solution, which includes Lotus Notes, Lotus Symphony and Lotus Sametime.

Under the agreement, announced at last month's LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in San Francisco, PC makers will be able to sell the bundled software with their desktop and notebook computers. The group expects to have these software bundles ready sometime next year.

Although Linux accounts for less than 1 percent of all desktops, IBM believes market conditions have evolved to the point where now is the right time to launch a push. Slow adoption of Microsoft's Windows Vista desktop OS and increasing demands for alternatives to "costly" Windows and Office licensing are all factors, the company says.

"It's no big secret that the client side of the IT environment is one of the last bastions of proprietary technology, disproportionately dominated by one vendor," said Jeff Smith, VP of open source and Linux middleware for IBM's Software Group, while speaking at a press conference held at LinuxWorld.

IBM has not identified any hardware vendors who have signed on to this initiative, though company officials say vendor deals are still in the works.

Gartner Inc. analyst Michael Silver is skeptical that IBM's latest push will be any more successful than other efforts to spur adoption of open source desktops. "For most organizations, the time is not yet right for Linux on the desktop," Silver says. "Windows is not a huge cost when you get it on a new PC, and the annual cost to get a supported version of Linux with seven years of security-fix support could end up costing you more than you're paying for Windows."

Still, IBM could see success down the road. Gartner expects that only 50 percent of a typical organization's apps will need Windows by 2012, so time will likely improve the viability of the non-Windows desktop.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance author and journalist based in Silicon Valley. His latest book is The Everything Guide to Social Media. Follow John on Twitter, read his blog on ADTmag.com, check out his author page on Amazon, or e-mail him at john@watersworks.com.


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