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March 8, 2006

IBM avoiding Vista, will go to Linux desktops internally?

Posted by David Hunter at 12:34 PM ET.

That’s the story from the Windows Vista Weblog which points (via NeoSeeker) to a report on Groklaw from LinuxForum on Monday quoting IBM’s Andreas Pleschek. Pleschek, who is “working at IBM in Stuttgart, Germany, and head of open source and Linux technical sales across North East Europe” makes some interesting statements about IBM’s software product plans in regards to Open Source and then drops the bomb:

Andreas Pleschek also told that IBM has cancelled their contract with Microsoft as of October this year. That means that IBM will not use Windows Vista for their desktops. Beginning from July, IBM employees will begin using IBM Workplace on their new, Red Hat-based platform. Not all at once – some will keep using their present Windows versions for a while. But none will upgrade to Vista.

There are more details by following the link, but not unexpectedly, the IBM Workplace client uses OpenOffice instead of Microsoft Office so that’s out too. It’s not clear whether this policy actually applies to all of IBM or just some portion of Europe, but it’ll undoubtedly be exciting for the relevant support staff. I should also mention that this is just the standard IBM office PC. IBM software developers for Windows environments would presumably get an exception.

While IBM is a large company, I don’t think the loss of IBM’s desktops makes much difference to Microsoft except for the unfortunate salesman assigned to the IBM account. It does however, make it clear that IBM is turning serious about desktop Linux.

Finally, Pleschek’s presentation had items of general interest as well:

Last year, IBM changed their business model after a Gartner study told them that 19% of the software market will move from commercial, proprietary software to open source software over the next five years. IBM’s new philosophy is to take the best from both worlds. They will use open source for the commodities, i.e. things that everyone need, such as file zippers, browsers and word processors. On the other hand, he said, proprietary software is better for specialized software – mainly because there is not enough community interest to drive a complex, fast development for something that only a few people need. He said that there is a pendulum motion between the two, so the border between what is best solved by Open Source and what is best solved by proprietary software moves all the time.

Accordingly, IBM will now offer three categories of software: Some will be Open Source, which they will help develop, sponsor or even donate to the Open Source community. Also, they will offer support and integration for it. Some software will still be proprietary – mostly their big, complex systems in full-blown versions. And some will be offered as closed source, but free download. That will often be watered-down versions of the proprietary software. He used the term “community edition”.

When asked from the audience whether the new business model works, he said that IBM’s customers loved it but that their sales persons were “concerned”. But since Gartner predicted that 19% of the market shares would be lost anyway, he did not think that it makes much difference on sales. And if they can sell support to just 10% of the customers that switch to open source, they will still be better off.

I would guess that the salesmen were still a hard sell since, for obvious reasons, they tend to have a short time horizon.

Update: Antone Gonsalves at InformationWeek is reporting that IBM is denying the story:

IBM employees using Linux desktops are switching to Red Hat Inc.’s version of the open-source operating system, but the company denied reports that it’s planning to dump Microsoft Corp.’s Windows, a company spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The number of Linux users within the Armonk, N.Y., company is about 5 percent of IBM’s 329,000 employees, spokeswoman Nancy Kaplan said. The workers include software developers and designers, people configuring software and hardware bundles for customers and others who need to use Linux as part of their jobs.

“The Linux plan is for people who have a need for Linux, as part of their jobs, will use it,” Kaplan said. “We have not made Linux available to the general employee population and there are no plans to do that.”

Andreas Pleschek, head of open source and Linux technical sales across Northeast Europe, was erroneously quoted this week as saying IBM had cancelled its Windows contract with Microsoft as of October, and did not intend to upgrade to Vista, the next major upgrade of the operating system, Kaplan said.

As to whether IBM would upgrade to Vista, the company was in the process of evaluating the OS and had not made a decision, Kaplan said.

Filed under Commoditization, Coopetition, IBM, Linux, OS - Client, Office, Office 2007, Open Source,, Windows Vista

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2 Responses to “IBM avoiding Vista, will go to Linux desktops internally?”

  1. Solveig Haugland Says:

    I’m going to have a grin on my face all day!

    You know the old saying, “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” When an organization as buttoned-down as IBM is going Microsoft-Free inside, you know there’s a (wait for it…here it is…) paradigm shift in open source.

    I do think Pleschek makes a good point on open source and specialized software. I imagine that, for instance, the internal pubs groups in IBM will continue to use Framemaker, Photoshop, Robohelp, etc., on Windows.

  2. Training, Tips, and Ideas Says:

    IBM Is Going Microsoft-Free Internally

    It’s like a John Lennon song. Imagine all the people….living without any Microsoft products…. And not just a few people. About 330,000 people. Additional people. IBM has canceled their contract with Microsoft. They will be using RedHat for the ope…

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