IBM dumps Microsoft? Not.

IBM dumps Microsoft? Not.

Summary: Despite published reports to the contrary, Linux backer IBM is a long ways away from cutting the umbilical cord to Microsoft Windows. A more gradual strategy of switching to cross-platform capable applications like Workplace Client will give the software giant the flexibility it needs to make that decision later if it so chooses.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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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:

"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."

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.

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.

Topic: Open Source

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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12 comments
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  • Another interesting action by IBM.

    Quoting:
    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.
    EoQ

    Remember that IBM put money into Novell just as Novell was buying SuSE.

    Does IBM know something about SuSE and Novell that we don't, or do we already know it?
    Anton Philidor
    • You should say that Linux is best, but it does not matter.

      You went on to explain it was really the applications and file compatibility such as macros in Word documents, familiarity, that is the problem, not that Windows itself is better.

      A better way to put it is that Linux is better, but it doesn't matter.

      It is the chicken and egg problem.
      DonnieBoy
      • Actually...

        ..It is the chicken and egg problem....

        It's more like the chicken farmer preferring the other guy's chicken (or eggs).

        Whatever happened to IBM?s tester program to move desktops to Linux (2 years ago)?

        Tis the like of yourself that has the author apologizing for stating his opinion about an OS.
        Pretty sad really.

        Joe
        seosamh_z
      • No, he stated it correctly

        Windows is better. Quit making tired excuses for Linux...
        John Zern
      • Yeah, best decade old tech...

        ;-)
        No_Ax_to_Grind
        • Careful - XP is dechade old tech to

          Based on NT4 code, which is based (loosely) on OS/2.....

          My how we forget just how old (and a POS) Windows really is.
          ITGuy04
  • It is significant

    "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.

    What's interesting about this non-story ..."

    Huge multi billion dollar standardizes on non-Microsoft products, when it formerly was standardized on MS products.

    Just how is that a "non-story"?

    Migration from MS lock-in of Windows and Office, in a super huge company like IBM, does not happen over night. Standardizing on non-MS products is the first HUGE step. Once standardized on Eclipse RCP and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, it's only a matter of time before all Windows/MSOffice is weeded out. It will happen over a number of years, but happen it will.

    Yes, it is a very significant story, no matter how much MS apologist/fanboys want to spin around it.
    boobasaurus
  • Funny

    "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."

    For a writer on ZDNet is almost goes without saying;-)
    Richard Flude
    • Best desktop OS is not Windows or Linux

      Sorry, it's OSX - integrates with both environments, stable, user friendly, and has the apps.
      ITGuy04
    • Where does that leave Murph and Dana?

      They openly promote everything Mac and Linux. You see to forget that we have a good balance of opinions.
      george_ou
      • Don't rag on him for not remembering...

        rag on ZDNet for not reminding us. Murph and Dana are almost invisible compared to all the Microsoft propaganda spouted by ZDNet writers (and MS Shills).
        nomorems
      • Don't forget David Berlind...

        A dyed in the wool Linux supporter...
        No_Ax_to_Grind