IBM: Linux desktops bucking the recession

IBM put out a study datelined one minute past midnight this Thursday morning commenting on the fact that outside of netbooks, the recession has largely put the kibosh on PC growth. There is according to IBM, however, an area of PC investment that actually saves money for a company: the Linux desktop.

IBM put out a study datelined one minute past midnight this Thursday morning commenting on the fact that outside of netbooks, the recession has largely put the kibosh on PC growth. There is according to IBM, however, an area of PC investment that actually saves money for a company: the Linux desktop.

Worldwide PC shipments fell seven per cent in the first three months of 2009 from a year earlier according to IDC. But interest in the open source desktop is confirmed, says IBM, by a new independent study by Freeform Dynamics which indicates that more than 70% of Linux desktop deployments are spurred by cost savings and that IT staff say Linux desktops are easier to deploy than expected.

Struggling with the “ultra-lite” nature of Linpus Linus Lite on my Acer Aspire One and the fact that the device drivers for the power supply seem to have AWOL since installing open source PDF viewer Evince – I’m NOT totally convinced that every Linux desktop deployment is a thing of joy. But let’s keep going.

The trick, says Freeform Dynamics, is to avoid getting distracted by those users who are emotionally or practically wedded to Windows, the report says, and focus on the ones for whom the PC on their desk is simply a tool to get their job done and therefore exhibit “moderate and predictable” use of e-mail and office tools.

Now this may be a new argument that IBM decides to put some weight behind, but basically the company is saying that non-technical users such as transaction workers and general professional workers are more than twice as likely to be primary targets for desktop Linux adoption than mobile and creative staff.

Not that it’s a bad thing, but that almost goes against the general perception that one garners from working with the development and DBA community as I do. It’s the techies who adopt Linux first and then, in many cases, hang on to their adopted flavour for dear life. But perhaps that’s not what IBM meant by “mobile and creative staff”, perhaps that means salespeople, managers and those who want what they think is a spoon feeder GUI that they perceive to be robust.

In fact, to clarify this point I spoke to Dale Vile, research director at Freeform Dynamics who told me, "If you take a look inside the report, you’ll see that technical staff (development and ops) are indeed the most prominent initial targets, but as that’s pretty well accepted, we didn’t pull it out as a key finding. The views of targeting within the end user community were the most interesting, and the most useful for those looking to exploit Linux beyond the technical domain."

You can get a summary of the findings on the Freeform Dynamics web site if you wish.

In related news, IBM is also talking about its connection with Canonical (which was announced in December of last year) as it teams up with a company called Virtual Bridges to provide Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) technology as part of a Microsoft-alternative desktop offering.

Virtual Bridges partner sign-ups have, guess what, seen a dramatic surge recently. VERDE is Virtual Bridge’s punt at the VDI space working with Ubuntu and and IBM’s collaboration and productivity software, Open Collaboration Client Solution (OCCS).

Most interestingly here, with the latest VERDE 2.0 release, Virtual Bridges claims to offer the ability to use the virtual desktop software when users are offline. Users can be disconnected from the Internet and still be able to use applications locally. The company says that this expands VERDE from being VDI-only to being a complete desktop management infrastructure offering.

How the product achieves this in terms of perhaps balancing local client processing power to capture application status if a web connection drops – I don’t know if that’s what they do, I’m trying to make an educated guess – they do not say. But it does appear to be the current must have in cloud based virtual desktop application delivery.