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3/8/2006
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IBM Switches Linux Desktops, But Isn't Dumping Windows

IBM is upgrading a bunch of workers to Red Hat Linux, but the company is denying reports that it plans to totally replace Windows on its desktops.

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 told TechWeb 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."

IBM started standardizing on Red Hat's Enterprise Linux product last year, after signing a deal in which the Linux distributor would provide support, Kaplan said. IBM does not plan to switch employees currently using Windows to Red Hat.

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.

The posting on blog Groklaw also said IBM employees would start using IBM Workplace, the company's business collaboration software, on Linux desktops in July.

Kaplan confirmed that Workplace is being rolled out companywide, but said it will run on both Red Hat and Windows. Because of their jobs, Linux users have the most immediate need for Workplace, so they will be the first to get the software.

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.

IBM has a policy to use open standards in all its internal technology, whenever possible. For open-source software, the company advises customers to use it to replace commodity products, and to use proprietary software in areas requiring specialized applications, according to Pleschek's presentation this week at LinuxForum 2006 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The company, however, has a history of supporting open-source software. In 1998, it announced it would integrate the Apache Web server into its Websphere application server; and in 2000, IBM said it would invest $1 billion in Linux. A total of 650 IBM employees work on various open source development communities, including Linux and Apache.

Asked if IBM would ever expand its use of Linux on the desktop, Kaplan said, "We just don't know."

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