IBM & Canonical to launch Ubuntu desktop for business

October 20, 2009 11:50 AM EDT
Recall how IBM and Canonical launched the Ubuntu IBM Client for Smart Work Linux desktop in Africa? Wish you could get one in the States? Wish no longer, as the two companies are introducing an Ubuntu-based Linux-based desktop package for arrival in 2010.

The IBM Client for Smart Work with Ubuntu is being built on top of Ubuntu 9.10. For applications, it uses IBM's OCCS (Open Collaboration Client Solution software), which includes both Lotus Symphony (IBM's take on OpenOffice) and Lotus Notes for e-mail and groupware.

You'll be able to run the Ubuntu-powered IBM Client both as a traditional desktop operating system and as a virtualized desktop. If you elect to go the virtual route, the IBM Client can run off either a cloud or servers using Virtual Bridges' VERDE (Virtual Enterprise Remote Desktop Environment) software.

VERDE is a Linux-based VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) server service. The company claims that VERDE can support up to a million user sessions per cluster on up to 10,000 servers. With it, Virtual Bridges says that it can support the Ubuntu desktop on any PC. Besides the usual virtual desktop services, it includes multimedia and sound support and local printing.

It's this virtual desktop that IBM is pushing. In an IBM statement, Bob Sutor, IBM's VP of Linux and open source, said that "Instead of positioning the IBM Client as a 'drop-in' replacement for the status-quo desktop, IBM is looking to create something better-focused on usability, openness, and security with a path to cloud computing-in market segments that make sense. Linux as the basis of the desktop is a pragmatic choice and gives a nod to the likely future of the desktop as being open and often virtualized."

Several companies, such as Midas Networks, will be offering the IBM Client as a virtualized desktop based on VERDE. You don't have to go to a SaaS (software as a service) vendor for the virtualized desktop. Other IBM partners will offer an appliance using Lotus Foundations, Lotus Domino VERDE so a business can run its own virtual desktops in-house.

This is not a consumer Linux desktop, though; it's meant for business. Specifically, IBM is targeting companies that need an inexpensive alternative to Windows for "collaboration, email, browser-based applications, and straightforward office productivity tasks."

Some vertical businesses have already embraced this plan. RealtyBargains.com will provide access to real estate property assessment information to its agents with the IBM Client for Smart Work starting in January 2010. "Our partnership with IBM and Canonical will allow us to offer the real estate industry's best agent workspace," said Padma Kumar Nair, RealtyBargains.com's president and CEO, in a statement.

While this far from an attempt to offer a universal Linux desktop replacement for Windows, it is a concerted effort to offer business users an affordable Windows replacement. With Windows 7 Professional Upgrade listing for $199 for Vista users, and XP users facing a situation where buying a new PC is probably their best 'upgrade' choice, the Ubuntu-powered IBM Client for Smart Work may well find some customers.

IBM Pricing:

Option A: A Starting Point

$3 LotusLive iNotes per user/month.

E-Mail, calendaring

TOTAL:$ 36 per user per year.

Option B: Add Social software capabilities to Option A

$9.75 LotusLive Connections per user/month

Dashboard, file sharing, personal profile networking, contact management, groups, project management, instant messaging.

TOTAL: $ 153 per user/year.

Option C: A Typical Solution

$74.50 Lotus Notes/iNotes

E-Mail, calendar, todo, contacts), Lotus Sametime entry (Instant messaging, chat, presence awareness), Lotus Quickr entry (file sharing)

TOTAL:$74.50 per user first year; $25.75 per user each additional year for the IBM Lotus software

Option D: Add virtual desktop capabilities

$49 per user first year. $10/user/year for subsequent years.

Supports Windows and Linux guests.