Delving further into the Linux realm, IBM last week announced that it will sell some of its popular ThinkPad laptop computers preloaded with the operating system for the first time. "Customers are demanding Linux, and rather than making them wipe off the (standard Windows 98 or 2000) operating system, we're just selling models preloaded with Linux," said spokesperson Scott Handy.
The company had earlier begun offering its Netfinity servers with versions of Linux.
The ThinkPads that will feature Caldera OpenLinux eDesktop 2.4 are the A20m and T20 models. The machines will be for sale beginning in the third quarter, Handy said, and are expected to be priced similarly to Windows-equipped models.
Tom Follette, IBM's worldwide products marketing manager, said IBM's commitment is justified by customer demand, though he wouldn't provide sales projections for how many Linux-loaded ThinkPads and other machines the company expects to sell.
"We expect this to be something that enough customers will request so that it makes business sense," Follette said.
IBM is evaluating whether other Linux versions, including Red Hat, TurboLinux and SuSE, will eventually also be offered on some ThinkPads, he said.
Other announcements made last week at IBM's PartnerWorld for Linux in New York included the news that IBM has certified the German SuSE AG Linux for use on several RS/6000 servers, including B50 rack-mountable servers for service providers, 43P Model 150 servers and workstations, and F-50 deskside servers for departments and small organisations. Other SuSE Linux applications are expected later in the year in the server line.
The company also unveiled the Linux versions of its IBM WebSphere e-commerce software package and a new Small Business Pack suite of Linux middleware applications.
Dan Kusnetzsky, a systems software analyst at IDC, said the moves show that IBM is committed to providing the Linux platform to customers who request it.
"It appears to have done more to embrace Linux at every level" than any of its major competitors, Kusnetzsky said. "It's gone quite a way to bring Linux in as one of its available operating systems." Bill Claybrook, an analyst at US-based Aberdeen Group in Boston, said IBM's desire to sell more hardware is behind its Linux push. But what sets IBM apart from other companies seeking the same goal, Claybrook said, is that the huge firm has surprisingly been able to make necessary, often nimble, on-the-fly changes to keep up and even lead in the Linux marketplace.
"For some reason, IBM seems to have made a pretty good adjustment to this," he said. "It is kind of amazing actually that IBM, given its size, could do this.
[The company] seem to be doing a good job of it."