IBM Ubuntu LotusphereOnce again, The VAR Guy's sources were right. Canonical, as our resident blogger expected, is set to announce some Ubuntu news at IBM's Lotusphere conference in Orlando the week of January 18. The effort -- which includes channel partners -- will involve Canonical countering Microsoft's Windows 7 push. Here's the scoop.

According to a draft press release viewed by The VAR Guy, Canonical will announce...
"a dedicated support program for Lotus Symphony, the no-charge office productivity alternative which is a core component of IBM Client for Smart Work (ICSW) on Ubuntu. This support is made available to customers by Canonical through the IBM and Canonical partner network. Organisations can now switch to an alternative platform from Microsoft for their business productivity needs with full confidence that the core solution is fully supported."

Any Channel Partners?

Hmmm... Sounds intriguing. But how many VARs and end-customers are really willing to dump Windows for Linux? Before you answer, consider the situation at ZSL, one of the first Canonical and IBM partners to embrace Ubuntu and the IBM Client for Smart Work. According to a prepared statement from Shiv Kumar, executive VP of sales at ZSL:
"The economic case for Ubuntu and the IBM Client for Smart Work is unarguable. The addition of support from Canonical at super-competitive pricing means companies have the reassurance of world class support through the entire stack. We are really excited about bringing this option to our new and existing clients and providing them with cost savings and productivity improvements at a stroke."
IBM has previously stated Smart Work can save customers up to 50 percent per seat on software costs vs. traditional Microsoft-based desktops. Canonical says the solution includes Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Desktop Edition and Lotus Symphony, which includes word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations, fully supported by Canonical at $5.50 per user, per month based on 1000 seat deployment.

Also of note: The solution has an optional desktop virtualization and recovery approach from Virtual Bridges, which has been working closely with IBM and Canonical to develop the Ubuntu virualized desktop market in recent months.

Bob Sutor, VP of Linux and open source at IBM, also lent his name to the press release -- a good sign for Canonical's fledgling enterprise and channel relations.

Reality Check

Of course, it's important for The VAR Guy to keep these Canonical moves in perspective. The company's channel remains a work in progress, and the next three months will rank among the most critical in Canonical's history -- due to the forthcoming Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) release in April 2010 and the ongoing CEO transition, which should be completed by March 2010.

Meanwhile, Canonical faces still competition on multiple fronts. The buzz around Windows 7 remains generally strong. Plus, entrenched Linux rivals such as Red Hat and Novell seem to be gaining momentum in new areas. Red Hat is busy beta testing a hosted desktop virtualization solution and Novell has been gaining momentum with an appliance approach to SUSE Linux.