Desktop collaboration software options for the Linux platform will get a boost when IBM releases its Lotus Notes on Linux product on July 24.
Arthur Fontaine, IBM Lotus senior offering manager, told eWEEK that this is the industrys first business-grade collaboration software to support Linux on the desktop.
Now the millions of Lotus Notes users across the world will have access to software that allows an open desktop alternative to proprietary desktop operating systems, Fontaine said.
"This product is very important to our customers. We have had the server version available since 1998, but with the growing interest in the Linux desktop, we have had a lot of customer demand for this," he said.
IBM will deliver this product, its first mainstream business application for the Linux desktop, using the platform-independent Eclipse development environment, and all applications built in this environment will also work with future versions of Notes for the Windows and Macintosh platforms, according to Fontaine.
"There is a growing base of Linux users, and this product will let them run Lotus Notes on Linux similar to the way they run the technology on Windows or Macintosh. The underlying technology is based on the Eclipse open-source framework and is the same technology to be used in the upcoming version of Lotus Notes, code-named Hannover, " he said.
IBM Lotus Notes on Linux, now available as part of Notes Version 7, supports Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 Update 3, with support for Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 to be delivered to customers within 90 days.
There will be no additional cost associated with the use of Notes on Linux for already licensed Notes users, while new clients will have to buy regular licenses that will give them access to the Windows, Macintosh and Linux platforms, Fontaine said.
Customers pursuing a Linux desktop strategy were challenged by the lack of mass-market, enterprise-grade software products that ran on the Linux operating system, and IBM embarked on a quest to make sure that all of its desktop products operated on Linux, he said.
"We have settled on the Eclipse rich-client platform as the method for delivering this and that is how we are getting the Notes client on the Linux desktop this year. Next year all Notes clients will be running on the Eclipse ready-client platform," Fontaine said.
IBM is expecting many customers to first run dual boots using both the Windows and the Linux versions, he said, adding that IBM is working to knock down all the barriers to the adoption of Linux on the desktop with its software and is hopeful that other vendors will follow suit. "But Im not holding my breath to see Microsoft do it," Fontaine said.
Already licensed Notes customers will be able to go to the regular download site on July 24 and download a file to install a Linux version, which will include all the required code, including the Eclipse rich-client platform code.
All the capabilities currently found in IBMs Workplace Managed Client offering will also be available in Notes, starting with the upcoming Hannover release, which is currently at the alpha development stage, Fontaine said.
Some 5,000 IBM staffers are already using the Notes on Linux product, which has also been in a broader beta, he said.
While IBM had initially shown the Notes on Linux product in 2005 as a plug-in to the Workplace Managed Client offering, a decision was then made to ship a Notes "personality of the Workplace Managed Client, meaning users only get the Notes capability and not the document editors and other things included with that product," Fontaine said.
Linux users will now also experience the Lotus Notes 7 collaboration platform, including over 120 features unique to the version, such as memory functions that will automatically save and return to open documents and applications on shutdown and restart, as well as visual indicators to help users organize and manage their in-boxes by highlighting high-priority messages, as well as differentiating between group e-mails and messages targeted for specific users.
"With end-to-end support for Linux on the Notes and Domino collaboration platform, this offering is expected to accelerate the growth of IBMs collaboration software on Linux, which is currently growing at more than 200 percent a year," Fontaine said.
The release of Lotus Notes on Linux is expected to be particularly attractive to the SMB (small and midsize business) community, as many SMBs and startups do not have the same level of legacy infrastructure as many enterprise organizations. The Linux environment is thus an attractive option for them from a flexibility and cost standpoint, he said.
"The ability to run Lotus Notes on Linux provides SMBs with an enterprise-level collaboration environment that can scale to fit their needs," Fontaine said.
To help further drive adoption, IBM is offering its business partners that develop Linux-based applications up to $20,000 for migrating customers from Microsoft Exchange to IBM Lotus Notes and Domino on Linux desktop, under an initiative known as "Migrate to the Penguin," Fontaine said.