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Innovation

IBM launches first Linux-OpenOffice desktop with virtualization features

IBM has added a Linux desktop with new virtualization capabilities to its portfolio.The Virtual Desktop, which bundles Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux, Virtual Bridges’ KVM-based desktop virtualization software and IBM’s Open Collaboration Client Solution, is available now, Big Blue announced on Thursday.
Written by Paula Rooney, Contributor on

IBM has added a Linux desktop with new virtualization capabilities to its portfolio.

The Virtual Desktop, which bundles Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux, Virtual Bridges’ KVM-based desktop virtualization software and IBM’s Open Collaboration Client Solution, is available now, Big Blue announced on Thursday.

None of the pieces are new. But the bundled solution makes it easier and cheaper for companies to deploy a complete VDI solution on Linux, IBM maintains. IBM’s OCCS includes Lotus Symphony, its implementation of the ODF-based OpenOffice, as well as Lotus Notes and other applications.

“People are finally getting comfortable with what virtualization can do for them on the desktop. It’s been on the server but now people want to know why they can’t virtualize client workloads,” said Austin, Texas-based Jeff Smith, vice president of Linux and open source for the IBM Software Group, in an interview this week.

IBM will serve on the front line of support but the solution is a go-to-market with all three parties and problems will be farmed out to each company. Virtual Bridges’ Virtual Enterprise Remote Desktop Environment runs about $49 per seat, while Canonical is about $50 per seat. IBM Lotus Symphony is free but the Notes and other applications are priced separately.

Smith maintains the solution is less expensive – about half the cost of -- the incumbent Windows/Office/Exchange desktop offering, regardless of Microsoft’s Enterprise Agreement discounts, designed to keep its longtime desktop customers from moving to open source.

“It’s not a secret business strategy for Microsoft. They will be very aggressive on pricing but at the end of the day it’s tough to start cutting prices on things that represent the vast majority of its profit.”

The biggest problem is inertia, particularly in a time of such economic unrest. Still, Vista’s unpopularity and IT funding issues will make the sell easier, Smith said. “A lot of people are reticent to take the forced march to the next Windows and as a result of the pressure in the financial system, they’re opening up their view on what the possibilities are and looking at other choices,” he said.

That’s been said for many years with little real market success for the open source desktop. But Smith claimed the deep economic crisis is causing disruption in this and in many other industries, leading to new opportunities for startups and alternatives.

“The Ford 150 used to be the best selling car in Texas but in two months sales went through the floor and it’s no longer the best selling vehicle in Texas,” he noted. “An event [gas price hike this summer] caused them to question their assumptions and they looked at their choices. It’s starting to happen [in IT] and gives new opportunities for Linux and the Mac.”

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