More than a decade after IBM's OS/2 lost the corporate desktop wars to Windows, Big Blue is back. And this time, IBM is armed with Canonical's Ubuntu Linux and a $49 per-user price point. A new, virtualized Ubuntu-driven solution initially targets IBM's financial services and government customers. Here are the details.

According to a press release, IBM, Virtual Bridges and Canonical have released "a Linux-desktop solution designed to drive significant savings compared with Microsoft-desktop software by amplifying Lotus collaboration software and Ubuntu to a larger user base through virtualization." Translation: IBM is declaring war on Windows AND Microsoft Office. And this time, Big Blue should be taken seriously.

According to the IBM release:
"This solution runs open standards-based email, word processing, spreadsheets, unified communication, social networking and other software to any laptop, browser, or mobile device from a virtual desktop login on a Linux-based server configuration.

A virtual desktop looks like a traditional desktop but is not limited to a single physical computer. Instead, many virtual Linux desktops are hosted on a server.
The combined solution, according to IBM, includes:
  • Virtual desktop provided by Virtual Bridges called Virtual Enterprise Remote Desktop Environment (VERDE);
  • Ubuntu, the worldwide leading Linux desktop operating system, from Canonical; and
  • IBM Open Collaboration Client Solution software (OCCS) based on IBM Lotus Symphony, IBM Lotus Notes and Lotus applications. IBM Lotus Symphony is built on the Open Document Format (ODF).

Virtualized Ubuntu Goes Corporate

Now here's the most important point of all. IBM says the new Ubuntu solution is "now a key component of IBM's financial services front office transformation offering as well as part of the IBM public sector industry solution framework." In other words, Big Blue and IBM Global Services are pushing Ubuntu into the corporate market.

This is NOT a consumer or small business push: The IBM-Canonical-Virtual Bridges solution costs $49 per user in 1,000-user quantities. And prices drop lower for those who make larger volume purchases.

IBM is also aggressively promoting alleged price advantages over Microsoft-based desktops. The IBM press release included multiple tidbits that are going to drive Microsoft crazy, including:
  • Licensing: cost avoidance of $500 to $800 per user on software license for Microsoft Office, Windows and all related products;
  • Hardware: cost avoidance of around $258 per user since there is no need to upgrade hardware to support Windows Vista and Office 2007;
  • Power consumption: cost avoidance of $40 to $145 per user from reduced power to run the configuration and $20 to $73 per user from reduced air conditioning requirements from lower powered desktop devices annually; and
  • IT services: 90 percent savings of deskside PC support; 75 percent of security/user administration; 50 percent of help desk services such as password resets, and 50 percent for software installations, which are replaced by software publishing.
There's no way for me to confirm or check IBM's claims above. And of course, user costs will vary greatly from company to company. But the fact that IBM has gotten serious about Ubuntu proves Microsoft's corporate monopoly is under duress. And, in my opinion, it the Windows-Office duopoly will fall within the next three to five years.

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