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IBM and Canonical pitch Ubuntu + cloud package at US firms

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With the imminent release of Windows 7, IBM and Canonical are clasping hands to sell an Ubuntu Linux- and Lotus-based desktop package to US businesses targeting low-end PCs and netbooks.

The duo initially launched their Ubuntu-powered IBM Client for Smart Work desktop bundle to Africa back in September. But IBM said it decided to swing the offering State-side due to demand from its partners.

And lo-and-behold, it lands just when Microsoft is gearing up for its introduction of Windows 7 this week — a fact IBM and Canonical are very much using as the vehicle for their pitch.

The new IBM Client for Smart Work package runs on top of Ubuntu 9.10. Big Blue tosses into the mix IBM Lotus Symphony (the company's free-of-charge office suite), email from Lotus Notes or the web-based Lotus iNotes, and web-based social networking and collaboration tools from LotusLive.com.

Businesses can run the Ubuntu-powered IBM client as either a traditional desktop or as a virtualized desktop (via the web or local servers) using VERDE software from Virtual Bridges.

The timely spin on the package is that businesses can save money versus Windows 7 licenses and use older PCs or even netbooks lacking the horsepower to run Microsoft's newest OS upgrade.

"People are really starting to ask questions about what it will mean to migrate to Windows 7 — and really if it's the right thing to do given the recession and that people are ever-more closely segmenting their users within their organizations," said Bob Sutor, IBM's veep of Linux and open source. "Rather than think of one type of desktop for everybody, people are starting to think about what particular groups are really doing."

Sutor told us the "hot-shot power productivity" folks will probably stick with that "certain platform." But workers who need office productivity software and spend most of their day in the browser will fit naturally into the package IBM and Canonical have designed.

The offering is available only in the US and Africa at present, but Sutor said IBM won't rule out bringing it elsewhere later. At a time when businesses are trying to decide on a strategy for their next desktop, the US just seemed like a prime target to tap, Sutor explained.

IBM and Canonical were focusing their attention on government agencies and universities in Africa due to lower bandwidth and smaller machines for the market on average. In the US, they feel private businesses such as financial services are on the market as well.

Although the software package will be sold in various shapes and sizes depending on specific business needs, IBM offered a few price-points as an example:

Option A: A Starting Point

$3 LotusLive iNotes/user/month (email, calendaring)
$0 Symphony web download
$0 Canonical Ubuntu web download
Total: $36 per user annually

Option B: Add social software capabilities to option A

$9.75 LotusLive Connections /user/month (dashboard, file-sharing, personal profile networking, contact management, groups, project management, instant messaging)
Total: $153/user/annually

Option C: Typical Solution

$74.50 / user first year: Lotus Notes/iNotes (email, calendar, to-do, contacts), Lotus Sametime entry (instant messaging, presence awareness), Lotus Quickr entry (file-sharing); $25.75 maintenance subsequent years.
$0 Lotus Symphony
Total: $75.50/user/first year, $25.75/user annually)

Including virtual desktop capabilities adds $49 per user for the first year, and $10 per user for subsequent years. ®

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