IBM’s open-source alternative to Windows 7

IBM and Canonical are introducing a cloud- and Linux-based desktop package in the U.S. designed for use on a company’s existing fleet of PCs and low-cost netbooks.

The IBM Client for Smart Work, based on IBM productivity and collaboration software, helps organizations save up to 50 percent per seat on software costs versus a Microsoft-based desktop, in addition to avoiding requisite hardware upgrades. The package allows companies to use their existing PCs, lower-cost netbooks and thin clients.

Independent market estimates range up to $2,000 for the cost of migrating to the Windows 7 operating system for many PC users. New PC hardware requirements account for a significant portion of the added expense.

The package, launched September 24 in Africa, was initially designed for emerging markets but sparked calls for the solution in the U.S. The U.S. version is arriving in time to help companies avoid the higher licensing, hardware upgrades and migration costs associated with Microsoft Windows 7.

IBM and Canonical expect to enlist hundreds of partners to offer the IBM Client for Smart Work in the U.S. in 2010. The current partner ecosystem includes regional systems integrators, ZSL and CSS Corp; virtual desktop provider, Virtual Bridges, and its distributors, Midas Networks and KalariSys; and several online, vertical industry businesses. IBM is also targeting the education market by collaborating with university faculty through the IBM Academic Initiative.

The U.S. solution includes several open standards-based components:

  • Word processing, spreadsheets and presentations from IBM Lotus Symphony, which is a free-of-charge download on the Web
  • Email from IBM Lotus Notes or the cloud-based LotusLive iNotes launched earlier this month, which starts at $3 per user, per month
  • Cloud-based, social networking and collaboration tools from from $10 per user, per month; and
  • Ubuntu, an open platform for netbooks, laptops, desktops, and servers.

Since the IBM Client for Smart Work is based on Eclipse, Linux and open Web standards, it can integrate with any third-party software. This gives companies the freedom to use technologies of their choice, extend their functions and preserve existing investments.

IBM developed this package based on client feedback and surveys, including a study conducted by the IT analyst firm Freeform Dynamics, commissioned by IBM, which showed that Linux desktops were easier to implement than IT staff expected if they targeted the right groups of users.

This software bundle can also be extended to cloud and virtual desktop infrastructures using VERDE software from Virtual Bridges.

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