As part of its initiative to put Linux on the desktop, IBM wants to migrate Microsoft's Office suite to Linux. Microsoft said it was not involved and suggested that IBM might do it by emulation.
For several years, the Linux operating system has been part of IBM's explicit strategy.
So far, we've mostly seen server-side solutions. Now, IBM is going for the desktop.
Many Linux users would prefer to run both Microsoft's Office suite and IBM's Lotus Notes. This is actually possible, using so-called emulation. Companies such as US-based Codeweavers offer such products. But this will not deliver applications that are actually compiled for Linux.
Technical manager for IBM's Lotus division in Sweden, Stefan Pettersson, said that there would be a Java client of Lotus Notes some time during the second half of 2004. This meant that the first "native" Notes client to run under Linux would soon be available.
However, the ubiquitous desktop software package is Microsoft Office, even inside IBM. So there are no plans to abandon Office. To the contrary.
"The Office package is very good," Pettersson said. "If there's anything from Microsoft that shines, that's it. Frankly, we choose to port all our solutions to Office."
Microsoft is also one of IBM's largest and most important partners. Still, promoting the Microsoft Office package might seem incompatible with IBM's Linux strategy.
But that was not so, Pettersson said.
"It will be possible to run the Office package on the Linux platform," he said. "Exactly how it's done, I can't reveal right now. But we're working together with Microsoft, who have provided us with part of their code. We've worked together like that previously."
Pettersson was referring to IBM's porting of Microsoft's Outlook email client to the Domino server system, which was made possible using code from Microsoft. The reason was that Domino is a major player in email.
Jonas Persson, Microsoft sales director for development tools, denies that Microsoft is collaborating with IBM about the Office suite.
According to him, there can be no porting of Office to Linux. More likely is that an emulation version was being developed.
"I am sure IBM is looking at different solutions," Persson said. "That's good, we encourage evaluations."
IBM might consider Sun Microsystems’ StarOffice as an alternative, since StarOffice already runs under Linux. However, this was not on the horizon now.
"It suits us fine the Microsoft and Sun fight about office application suites,"Oettersson said. "We stay away from that. The reason we don't collaborate with Sun is that they're too small."