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IBM goes silent on Linux desktop effort

IBM's Linux migration plans were made public a year ago

By Robert McMillan
January 25, 2005 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - More than a year after IBM's chairman and CEO, Sam Palmisano, challenged his company to move to the Linux desktop by the end of 2005, IBM has significantly toned down its rhetoric on the subject of open-source clients.
"We don't have anything we want to say that's definitive," said Nancy Kaplan, an IBM spokeswoman, declining to comment on specifics of the rollout. "There are people using Linux, and nobody is telling them to stop."
IBM's Linux migration plans were made public in January 2004, just months after IBM CIO Bob Greenberg formed an internal initiative called the Open Desktop project to facilitate the move. "Our chairman has challenged the IT organization, and indeed all of IBM, to move to a Linux-based desktop by the end of 2005," Greenberg wrote in a November 2003 memo. "This means replacing productivity, Web access and viewing tools with open standards-based equivalents."
IBM executives said at the time that they had approximately 15,000 Linux desktops within the company and predicted that they would have 40,000 to 60,000 desktops in operation by the end of 2004.
Kaplan declined to say whether that goal had been met. "I don't know if there was ever a goal of 40,000 users; I don't know if there are 40,000 users," she said. "There's nothing mysterious about it; we're using Linux."
Whether IBM's Linux users are getting any help from IBM's internal support staff is another question, however.
According to one IBM employee, who asked not to be identified, the company has created a Linux version of its standard desktop client, called the Client for eBusiness. Based on the Red Hat Linux distribution, the Linux client includes the Open Office productivity suite, a Lotus Notes client running under the Wine Windows-emulation software and the Mozilla Web browser.
Though IBM volunteers have set up an internal Internet Relay Chat channel where Linux problems are discussed online, users may experience problems running IBM's internal Web applications. Most of those applications are written for the Internet Explorer browser, which hasn't been ported to Linux. Internet Explorer is the only browser supported by IBM's internal support desk, according to another IBM staffer.
"If you don't use Internet Explorer, you might not get very far with them helping you with the problem," he said.
The majority of IBM's Linux users to date are technical users in the company's product development and research and development groups -- users who are technical enough to support themselves, the sources said.
IBM is using Wine to run Lotus Notes software on thousands of clients, according to sources, but ironically, thecompany's internal use of the open-source Windows operating system emulator didn't translate into a ringing endorsement in a guide to migrating to Linux clients that was recently published on IBM's Web site.
Wine is mentioned only in passing, in a section entitled "What to do if all else fails," and it's called a "temporary work-around" to get an application running on the Linux client. "This is not a solution for the long run," the guide states.
Peter Sayer contributed to this report.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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