IBM Lotus Strategist Sees Linux on Netbooks Making Inroads vs. Windows in 2009

Linux and open source will start to chip away at Microsoft Windows desktop software thanks to their popularity on netbooks, those ultralight, low-cost laptops. IBM Lotus strategy director predicts this as a major trend in 2009, as well as the proliferation of messaging and collaboration technologies asa function of UCC, SAAS, cloud computing, enterprise social networks and Web services.

With just a little over two weeks to go until the New Year, technology strategists and pundits are revving their prognostication engines to predict what 2009 will usher in.
But unlike the last handful of years or so, the economic environment is dreadful, with thousands of high-tech layoffs by parched startups seeking exit strategies after coming up dry at the venture capital wells all over the country. Bellwethers may suffer layoffs, but they will largely remain intact should the recession deepen.
IBM is one of the vendors that sees the harsh economic climate as a catalyst for opportunity, particularly for Web 2.0 software in the workplace. Doug Heintzman, director of strategy for IBM's Lotus collaboration software unit, discussed technologies and trends that will change the way we work in 2009.
The answers comprise the usual mixed bag we've come to expect from IBM. UCC (unified communications and collaboration) is getting stronger, supported by SAAS (software as a service), cloud computing, mashups, Web browser technologies, free software and, of course, Linux and open source. Expect to hear more about all of these at Lotusphere 2009 next month.
However, Heintzman said IBM has changed its tune with regard to Linux, noting that the emergence of netbooks -- those cheaper, tiny laptops -- have opened a crack in Microsoft's Windows operating system hegemony. Indeed, given Microsoft's Windows control "we've been pretty cautious about declaring Linux as viable on the desktop," Heintzman told eWEEK, adding:

We may well be at an inflection that, with distributions like the Ubuntu distribution, with the rise of popularity in the Mac OS platform, maybe the market starts to fragment and the monopoly loses its power. The Vista launch didn't help matters much. Netbooks, where people are using a basic set of capabilities on the desktop but are storing photos and music files and editing their documents in much more in an online way.... All these factors combined suggest that this may be an important inflection for this new class of ultralight laptop computers, the Asus Eee PCs and Everex CloudBooks of the world. You're dealing with price points and memory- and processor-size restrictions that make them extremely attractive for a Linux operating system as opposed to a Windows operating system.

Heintzman, who admitted to being won over when one of his colleagues let him play with it, predicted that as more and more people begin to use netbooks for play, more robust netbooks and even desktops based on Linux will rise up as more cost-effective, secure and durable machines.
Noting that Lenovo, Dell and HP are getting into this game, Heintzman said "these whole class of cloud notebook may be the thing that changes the viability of Linux on the desktop."
As Microsoft Watch's Joe Wilcox notes on one of his many blog posts regarding threats (and opportunities) to Microsoft, manufacturers shipped 6.5 million mini-notebooks during the first three quarters, according to IDC, which predicts full-year shipments of 10.88 million, up from 181,000 last year.