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IBM plants Linux on the desktop

Open Client platform no longer closed off

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IBM has announced an open-source desktop, running Lotus apps and Firefox on top of Red Hat or SUSE Linux. It's based on an internal project which has deployed Linux desktops to several thousand IBM staff, in what IBM said was one of the largest corporate Linux roll-outs to date.

It added that its Open Client Solution can also take in Windows and Mac users, as there's Lotus software for those as well - although it admits that the Mac version of Notes 8 isn't due until later this year.

"With the Open Client platform we've internally battle-tested a Linux-based solution running Lotus software, based on what customers have been demanding from the market," claimed Scott Handy, IBM's worldwide VP for Linux and open source.

He added: "We've created a single flexible software stack that only requires one set of investment and one team of developers to run on multiple operating systems."

Why could this attempt at desktop Linux succeed where others have failed? Firstly, IBM's not proposing to give it to everyone, as it hoped to with its failed Open Desktop project - instead, it said that it uses a user-segmentation model and a "broad roles-based strategy" to figure out who gets Linux and who gets Windows.

And secondly, the cross-platform availability of apps, plus the decision to use existing Linux distros rather than developing its own, means it can readily put together complete Linux-based systems that provide many employees with all the collaborative and productivity tools they need to do their jobs.

(Plus if we're talking about certain staffers, desktop Linux could also be seen as a security enhancer - especially if it prevents them from installing Windows-based games or whatever from their home PCs and the internet.)

The main Linux apps IBM's pushing are its Eclipse-based versions of Lotus Notes and Sametime, its mash-up tool Lotus Expeditor, Firefox for access to Websphere Portal, and office apps that support the OASIS Open Document Format (ODF).

Operating system support will be sourced from Red Hat and Novell, while IBM can add desktop management and application migration services. ®

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