Armonk (NY) – IBM has been taking stabs at the cost of Microsoft Windows in corporate environments for some time. Today the company followed up on a promise to participate in a “Microsoft-free” desktop environment, which the company promised to make available to its customers by the beginning of 2009. The software platform is based on Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux distribution, Virtual Bridges’ virtual desktop software and IBM’s Lotus Symphony productivity suite. The selling point? It’s cheaper than Microsoft and, well, it is anti-Microsoft.
IBM does not make a big secret out of its strategy to pitch the platform as a Microsoft alternative in the hope to capture the interest of IT Managers who are unhappy with Microsoft software for whatever reason. Described as a “Linux-based, security-rich, Microsoft-desktop alternative,” the package promises basic productivity features, including open standards-based email, word processing, spreadsheets, unified communication, social networking and other software to any laptop, browser, or mobile device from a virtual desktop login on a Linux-based server configuration.
The platform is based on three components, (1) Ubuntu Linux, (2) Virtual Enterprise Remote Desktop Environment (VERDE) from Virtual Bridges and (3) IBMS’s Open Collaboration Client Solution software (OCCS) based on Lotus Symphony, Lotus Notes and Lotus applications. IBM announced the intent to offer such a platform in August of this year, stating that it wants to ship computing devices that are entirely free of any Microsoft product into the 1-billion-unit desktop market.
According to IBM, market forces are shifting and there is “growing demand for economical alternatives to costly Windows and Office-based computers.” The company claims that “Linux is far more profitable for a PC vendor and the operating system is better equipped to work with lower cost hardware than new Microsoft technology.” At the time of the August announcement, Linux companies Red Hat, Novell were involved as well, but there is no information if or when those two companies will actually make their software available as part of this initiative.
So, what about those costs? How much cheaper is a Linux desktop? According to IBM, up to $1276, not including IT services. The company claims that customers can save up to $800 in software licensing cost (Windows, Office), up to $258 in hardware upgrade cost necessary to support Windows Vista and Office 2007, up to $145 per user and year in reduced power requirements and up to $73 per user per year from reduced air conditioning requirements (since users could run lower-power PCs with this Linux platform). IBM said that IT services per desktop may sink by 90%, security/user administration by 75%, help desk services by 50% and software installations by 50%.
“With the benefits of open standards over a proprietary platform come the freedom to select software in a heterogeneous environment,” said Malcolm Yates, vice president, Canonical, in a prepared statement. “Combining Ubuntu with IBM’s Open Client software applications we can break out of Microsoft dependencies completely and significantly reduce total cost of ownership.”
The absolute cost of IBM’s idea is $49 per user for VERDE in a 1000-user environment. Ubuntu Linux and Symphony are offered free of charge. But IBM wants to make money with this offering, of course. Besides helping to market VERDE, IBM stressed that it can “help” customers to “out this offering, as well as other customized virtual desktops.”