IBM on Tuesday put its industry muscle behind Linux distributors Canonical, Novell, and Red Hat in building Microsoft-free PCs for business.
Also at the LinuxWorld conference in San Francisco, IBM announced its first certified package of open source software for Linux-based supercomputers.
In the Microsoft-related announcement, IBM and its partners said there's market demand for less expensive PCs than those that ship with the Windows operating system and Microsoft's Office suite of applications. The four companies see Vista, the latest version of Windows, as opening the door for OS rivals.
Among the complaints of Vista is that it requires more powerful computers than those running XP, the previous version of Windows. As a result, many businesses have delayed upgrading to Vista until the end of their hardware life cycle.
IBM said this gives it and the Linux distributors the opportunity to work with hardware partners to offer PCs preloaded with Linux and IBM's Open Collaboration Client Solution, which includes Lotus Notes, Lotus Symphony, and Lotus Sametime.
Notes is IBM's client for accessing e-mail, calendars, and other applications running on the tech company's Lotus Domino server. Symphony is IBM's office suite, which was released free of charge in 2007; Sametime is IBM's instant messaging and Web conferencing application.
As envisioned by the four companies, local IT firms in markets around the world would place their own brands on the final hardware, offer additional software tailored to a specific market segment, such as banking or government, and provide installation services. In addition, customers, independent software vendors, and systems integrators can develop client applications using Lotus Expeditor, development tools based on the open source Eclipse programming model.
Vdel, an Austrian IT firm, debuted the IBM-led group's Microsoft alternative in Eastern Europe this year, the companies said. Called OpenReferent, the hardware included software such as IBM's Open Collaboration Client and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
The reception of the new product has been particularly strong in the Russian market, where the desktops have been piloted and phased in by the Russian postal service and the Rushotel Hotel in Moscow, according to IBM. Vdel claims the new desktops cost 30% to 35% less than a Microsoft-based equivalent.
Besides Vdel, IT distributor Avnet in the United Kingdom has started offering similar desktops running SUSE Linux Enterprise from Novell, the companies said.
Canonical, which sells subscription support for Ubuntu Linux, will re-distribute Lotus Symphony through its Web site by the end of August.
The latest offering from IBM and its partners is a reflection of the reception Vista has gotten among businesses. The OS has been poorly received by IT managers, many of whom view it as too large and resource hungry, and too desktop-centric, for an era in which much of business computing is migrating to the Web.
With an understanding of the shortcomings of Windows, Microsoft is reportedly developing a new OS designed from the ground up to support Internet-based computing and multi-core architectures. The new OS, which currently goes by the development name Midori, could one day replace the company's Windows franchise.
Meanwhile, IBM said its first certified package of open-source software for Linux-based high-performance computing, called the HPC Open Software Stack, would be initially available on IBM Power6 processors.
The stack, which has been integrated and tested by IBM, is meant to "ease deployment" of supercomputers comprised of many servers linked together in a cluster. The software is also useful in developing and executing applications and in managing and monitoring a system.
"As more and more computing tasks migrate to supercomputer style clusters, there is a need for software that can effectively utilize and manage the large number of processors found in these systems," Dave Turek, VP of Deep Computing for IBM, said in a statement.
The HPC stack is available through an online software repository hosted by the University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications.