Is Linux on the enterprise desktop finally ready for prime time? IBM apparently thinks so as it prepares to deliver its next versions of Lotus Notes enterprise collaboration software and Lotus Symphony office productivity applications for the first time with full support for Ubuntu Linux 7.0 sometime in the second half of this year.
In an announcement this week at the Lotusphere 2008 conference in Orlando, IBM said that it will provide full support for Ubuntu Linux with Lotus Notes 8.5 and Lotus Symphony using its Open Collaboration Client software, which is based on open standards.
Antony Satyadas, chief competitive marketing officer for IBM Lotus, said the Ubuntu support for Notes and Symphony were a direct response to demand from customers. Lotus Notes 8.0.1 has limited support for Ubuntu Linux, but customers have asked for broader capabilities, he said.
"We're doing pilots with customers now," Satyadas said. "Some of the requests came from big companies" with as many as 100,000 users that are interested in moving to Ubuntu Linux on the desktop.
"The other thing we are seeing is some interesting patterns evolving here," he said. "It starts with a very small company looking at Linux, and then there are really large companies that are starting out small with 500 [Linux desktop] users, then moving up to 2,000 or more. That is the pattern we are seeing."
For the past six years or so, some prognosticators have predicted that Linux on the corporate desktop was finally ready, but the move has never taken hold in a major way.
Satyadas said IBM thinks that this year, it will happen.
"All the stars are lining up," he said. "Everybody has been saying that since 2001 except IBM. We never said that, but we are saying that now."
In the past, IBM has said Linux on the corporate desktop wouldn't happen until the operating system was good enough to allow companies to have all the functions they need to run their businesses. At the same time, an adequate supply of critical business software that would run reliably and efficiently on Linux would be needed.
"We are putting our money where our mouth is," Satyadas said. "We think now the time is really[here]" and the needed business applications are available to make it work for enterprises.
"Linux is cool now," he said. "We use it ourselves. We are able to offer a secure, rich and cost-effective Microsoft alternative."
The Open Collaboration Client software includes advanced e-mail and calendar capabilities, unified communication and collaboration functions and general word processing, spreadsheet and presentation capabilities with Open Document Format (ODF) support. The Open Collaboration Client is built on Lotus Expeditor, which is based on the open source Eclipse Rich Client Platform.
Mark Murphy, vice president of alliances for Canonical, the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu Linux, said in a statement that the availability of Notes and Symphony for use with Ubuntu will be a "win for customers everywhere. Canonical is committed to bringing the best available productivity tools to its users on an open platform. Ubuntu users will now have an outstanding choice with Lotus Notes, while businesses will have a great choice with Lotus Domino. From a technical viewpoint, we are impressed how Lotus leverages the Eclipse platform to build and deliver rich client applications. This is an exciting development for Ubuntu users, too."