IBM teams with Linux firms for Microsoft-free PCs

Seizing on slow enterprise uptake of Vista, IBM has teamed up with Canonical, Novell and Red Hat to globally promote PCs without Microsoft software

IBM has launched its latest attack on Microsoft in the enterprise, forming an alliance with three top Linux distributors to promote Microsoft-free PCs around the world.

The deal with Canonical (the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu), Novell and Red Hat is designed to promote PCs running Linux alongside IBM business software, such as Lotus Notes, Lotus Symphony and Lotus Sametime. IBM made the announcement at the Linux World Conference & Expo in San Francisco on Tuesday.

The partnership is targeting specialised markets, such as government, finance and education, where the partners said they see an opportunity due to the unpopularity of Windows Vista and the recent success of Linux-based efforts from IT distributors in the UK and Eastern Europe.

Separately, Canonical said it will add Lotus Symphony — based on the productivity suite — to its Ubuntu application repositories, meaning the software can be automatically downloaded and installed on Ubuntu clients.

Lotus Symphony 1.1 will be available on Ubuntu repositories by the end of August, and version 1.2 will be added to the repositories on its release at the end of October.

IBM has long been a backer of Linux as an alternative to Microsoft offerings in the enterprise but, while Windows has yet to be removed from its entrenched position, IBM said Linux-based systems have now proven they can be a commercially viable alternative.

"The slow adoption of Vista among businesses and budget-conscious chief information officers, coupled with the proven success of a new type of Microsoft-free PC in every region, provides an extraordinary window of opportunity for Linux," said Kevin Cavanaugh, vice president for IBM Lotus software, in a statement.

One recent IBM-Linux effort is that of the Austrian IT firm VDEL, which earlier this year began selling a system called Open Referent based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and IBM's business software. The response has been strong, particularly in Russia, where large organisations such as the Rushotel hotel chain and the Russian postal service have adopted it, according to IBM. The systems cost about one-third less than a Microsoft-based equivalent, IBM said.

Avnet UK, the UK's largest IT distributor, sells a similar system, based on Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise, IBM said.

The partners' plan is to duplicate these localised efforts on a worldwide scale, working with IT firms in each local market, IBM said. Local IT firms will brand the final product themselves, and will have the opportunity to directly supply their own applications and installation services, as well as developing new applications using Lotus Expeditor, based on the open-source Eclipse programming environment.

The system, due to be ready by the end of this year, is to be tailored to specific sectors. For example, a version aimed at governments would support applications for document or case management, crisis management and government services, while a banking version might focus on virtual thin clients, IBM said.


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