IBM Oct. 20 aimed to cut the legs of Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system out from underneath it by offering an Ubuntu Linux-based cloud computing and desktop solution for businesses looking to save some money via the hosted software and open-source route.
IBM Client for Smart Work includes the free word processing, spreadsheets, presentations from IBM Lotus Symphony; e-mail from IBM Lotus Notes or the company's new LotusLive iNotes cloud-based e-mail application, which starts at $3 per user per month; and the LotusLive.com social networking and collaboration tools, which cost $10 per user per month.
These applications will run on Canonical's Ubuntu open-source Linux distribution for desktops, laptops, netbooks and servers.
Citing recent Gartner research that said migration to Windows 7 could cost businesses around $2,000 per user due to new PC requirements, IBM said its Client for Smart Work package is geared to help companies save up to 50 percent per seat on software costs versus a Microsoft-based desktop. This is because the solution lets companies run a combination of Web-based applications and Linux on their existing PCs, netbooks and thin clients.
Microsoft is launching Windows 7 Oct. 22 and has already received pledges of migration support from PC makers such as Dell. IBM is positioning the package as a way to rescue customers from buying Microsoft's Windows 7 and Office productivity software during a recession.
"The U.S. version is arriving just in time to help companies avoid the higher licensing, hardware upgrades and migration costs associated with Microsoft Windows 7," goes the IBM rhetoric in a company statement. IBM Lotus General Manager Bob Picciano got his licks in: "If a company is a 'Windows shop,' at some point it will need to evaluate the significant costs of migrating its base to Microsoft's next desktop and bolstering its defenses against virus and other attacks."
Forrester Research analyst Sheri McLeish told eWEEK that Client for Smart Work is an antidote for IBM Lotus Notes shops that are tired of the costs of maintaining a full Microsoft environment.
McLeish noted that the days of a one-size-fits-all approach for productivity tools are ending because of the increasing maturity of cloud-based alternatives; the fact that IBM wrote Lotus Symphony to work well with Office files and Microsoft SharePoint helps, too. She added:
"Our own research shows that a good portion of information workers rarely use all of the tools in their Office arsenal. ... Even IBM acknowledges that some segments will likely still need the full features of Office but upwards of 70 percent to 80 percent of any given enterprise might be satisfied by a lower-cost alternative. For large enterprises that embrace open standards, this combination of OS and desktop software really can help drive costs down for some segments or all of their organization. For organizations steeped in Microsoft technology, it may be time to validate the costs and benefits of their Microsoft investment."
While Client for Smart Work is primed to enable collaboration through the cloud, with IBM hosting customer data on its servers, IBM is also offering the package through an appliance using Lotus Foundations and on-premises using Lotus Domino collaboration software.
This software bundle can also be extended to virtualized workspaces using VERDE from Virtual Bridges, a solution IBM began offering last December to bring customers Linux and Lotus messaging and collaboration software to desktops and workstations across remote offices.
IBM and Canonical said they expect hundreds of partners to offer IBM Client for Smart Work in 2010. Pricing varies depending on company sizes, configurations and support requirements; U.S.-based customers can buy the package from business partners Canonical, CSS, Compariv, Mainline, Midas Networks, Red Hat, Virtual Bridges and ZSL.
As always, IBM Global Technology Services remains eager to take companies' money to help them install and deploy virtual desktops running IBM Client for Smart Work.