Not one to be completely shut out of the desktop party, IBM has unleashed a series of announcements around its Workplace suite of collaborative solutions. Although deriving the most value out of its server-centric architecture forces a serious rethink on how end-users should be creating, saving, and collaborating on documents of all sorts, it offers a litany of team and collaboration-oriented features that can be woven into any document's lifecycle. And, it does this in way that simply can't be found in any of the other, more traditionally architected challengers to Microsoft's Windows and Office. It also integrates with Windows and Office, if you want it to (in other words, IBM isn't saying that users of Workplace must ditch their existing solution). But, by staying with Windows/Office on their desktops, users of Workplace will end up sacrificing one of Workplace's key TCO benefits.
IBM's announcement comes in the same week that Novell is demonstrating its commitment to breaking Microsoft's grip on desktop computers. On Monday, Novell announced the early release of its Novell Linux Desktop -- a $50 soup-to-nuts (operating system to productivity and communications applications) desktop solution that targets business users. In terms of what it offers, who it targets, and how much it costs, NLD most closely resembles Sun's Java Desktop System (a solution that I've said is worth considering). Included in IBM's Workplace rollout is an express version of the suite that CRN has reported will cost small and medium businesses less than $100 per seat.>
But even though it lands in the sub-$100 range (like NLD and JDS), it's impossible to do an apples to apples comparison of Workplace to NLD, JDS, or even Windows and Office without pulling other products into the picture. For example, a client-side OS or thin-client to run Workplace (technically, it needs nothing more than a browser with Java). In the NLD, JDS, and Office worlds, one would have to add a central document-versioning repository such as a Linux-based WebDav server or Microsoft's Sharepoint Server. All this said however, IBM's Workplace announcement just adds another interesting twist to the reinvigorated battle for the desktop.