Vista Orphans and IBM’s Open Collaboration Client

amcpherson's picture

I may work at the Linux Foundation, but I have never publicly been caught saying 2009 (or 2008, or 2007 etc) would be the year of the Linux desktop. (I’ve never even said it privately even though I use a Linux desktop everyday.) While Linux is an important desktop option and companies such as Novell have made significant corporate wins, it has failed to garner enough users on the desktop to put a significant dent in Microsoft’s marketshare. One of the key reasons for that has been most corporations standardizing on Windows. (This is another reason why Apple is still in single digits even though they have been enjoying a huge surge in consumer usage.)

But things may be changing. While Windows once enjoyed 97% of the desktop market (according to various surveys) they now have just now fallen under 90%. And then Gartner’s recent CIO survey says this:

Linux as an operating system for the desktop is much less established in enterprise use, with 39 percent of respondents in the Gartner survey currently using it and another 22 percent expecting to use it within the next year.

I find these numbers somewhat dubious, but if they are close to true, they are significant. If you combine the state of the economy with the Vista upgrade and Vista Orphan issue, you may just have a recipe for change. The article goes on to profile Office Depot and their deployment of Novell’s Linux products and the cost savings they produce.

Even more importantly, we have news this week of IBM’s Open Collaboration Client with includes Linux and IBM’s own office suite:

Symphony includes word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet applications based on the Open Document Format. IBM Lotus Notes apps are also available.

The system is designed to run in a virtual configuration, with the software stored both locally and on remote servers. IBM teamed up with Canonical and Virtual Bridges to create the offering. “Today’s news builds on announcements through 2008 around delivering Microsoft alternatives in conjunction with our partners,” IBM said in a statement Thursday.

IBM claims the system can save businesses $500 to $800 per user on Microsoft software licenses and an additional $258 per user “since there is no need to upgrade hardware to support Windows Vista and Office.”

Big Blue also claims the system’s virtual setup affords savings of $60 to $118 per user on power and air conditioning costs, and that it will also help companies reduce IT support expenses. “For this virtual system, all administrative intervention is done on consolidated virtual machines in the data center through deployment of standard images,” IBM said.

Computerworld explains the savings in more detail:

Inna Kuznetsova, director of IBM Linux Strategy, said that it’s a “solution to keep IT costs down.” With the software stack, system administrators can let end users sign up from any corporate-networked PC and access their desktop applications. This can also work over the Internet with VPN (virtual private networks). Kuznetsova added, “As your desktop machine supports certain protocols, you can access and use it. It’s all being stored on the server, so all the upgrades and updates can be performed on the server simultaneously by the system administrator.” Centralized management, just as much as using the low-cost, secure Ubuntu Linux for the desktop, also cuts down costs.

Those sound like significant savings that you’d think would make any CIO pondering a switch to Vista and the attendant hardware upgrade pause (especially if she works in the financial services industry). How important do you think the announcement from IBM and Canonical will be to the future of the corporate desktop? Are we in another hype cycle or are we finally poised to see a fundamental shift?