Andreas Pleschek, IBM's head of open source and Linux technical sales in Northern Europe, was widely misquoted this week as saying that IBM had cancelled its Windows contract with Microsoft as of October. The truth is a bit more prosaic. According to Antone Gonsalves at CRN, IBM is simply standardizing on its own Workplace Client software internally, which is based on Eclipse RCP and runs on both Windows and Linux. IBM is also standardizing on the Red Hat Enterprise version of Linux in order to get support and upgrades, for those people who already run Linux. But IBM is not currently planning to switch employees using Windows to Red Hat.
What's interesting about this non-story is how quickly everybody jumped on it without getting any kind of confirmation. I think the reason is that many people *wanted* it to be true because it might speed adoption of Linux by other large companies. Even within a big Linux backer like IBM, however, Linux adoption has been slow. IBM spokeswoman Nancy Kaplan said that out of IBM's 329,000 employees, only about 5 percent are running Linux:
I'll probably get a lot of flack for saying this, but in my opinion MS Windows is the best client operating system today and will likely remain so for some time to come. Not just for end users but for developers as well. That's not because I'm a MS apologist or anything, it's because all the software I want to run, runs on Windows. For example, when I was writing the Eclipse IDE Pocket Guide, I tried to use Open Office, I really did. But the publisher had defined macros that I absolutely had to use, and they only ran in the real MS Word. Other tools I use daily like Textpad, ProcExp, Filemon, and so forth, are Windows only.
"The Linux plan is for people who have a need for Linux, as part of their jobs, will use it. We have not made Linux available to the general employee population and there are no plans to do that."
Now, I know that there are non-Windows alternatives to many of the tools I use, but the critical mass is not there for me, at least not yet. One way to help this along is to use cross-platform *capable* tools as much as possible. Like Eclipse RCP or Netbeans Platform for example. They're based on Java so they *can* run on other platforms, but I've deployed apps for plenty of folks that only want to use Windows right now. It's good to have the option to switch, however, to use whatever is the best platform at any given time. Mozilla Firefox is another good example. I think what IBM is doing here, enabling the option for switching sometime down the road, is a smart and pragmatic strategy.