Earlier this month IT Business Edge blogger Lora Bentley wrote about IBM's promise to offer a Windows-free desktop by next year, a goal it will accomplish through partnerships with three of the largest Linux distributors: Red Hat, Novell and Canonical.
Though the idea of a Linux desktop has never quite taken off, IBM sees real opportunity with SMBs and in fast-growing emerging markets like China and India where Microsoft doesn't enjoy the huge market-share advantage it does here in the U.S.
According to a an ITBusiness.ca article, part of its determination to win in such markets may have come from Microsoft's boast that it would lure 5 million users away from IBM's Lotus Notes, a competitor to Microsoft's Outlook and Exchange. Linux is a key part of the Notes emerging markets strategy, since it eliminates the need for a separate OS license, a requirement for Outlook users who must also purchase a Windows license.
The IBM Linux partners will offer prepackaged versions of Big Blue's Lotus Foundations software bundle, which includes Notes, the Sametime instant messaging system and Symphony, IBM's competitor to Microsoft Office.
IBM also offers a server version of Lotus Foundations, which it is positioning as a "one-stop shop for companies with five to 500 employees. It includes Lotus Domino, file management, directory services, firewall, backup and productivity tools. Another selling point: The software is "autonomic," or self-healing, so it should appeal to companies without a team of dedicated IT staffers.
Of course, IBM and its partners face challenges, not the least of which is the fact that marketing efforts will be somewhat splintered as the three Linux distributors stand to lose some market share to each other. Saugatuck Technology analyst Bruce Guptill includes this and other interesting observations in an analysis of the deal. (You'll have to go through a free site registration to read it.)