IBM said on Sunday it will offer an open desktop software system for businesses that puts the cost of managing Apple or Linux computers on a more equal footing with Microsoft's Windows software, improving the economics of Windows alternative
The product -- which the company calls its "Open Client Offering" -- pulls together software IBM has developed in-house and with partners Novell and Red Hat to answer questions over the cost-effectiveness of managing Linux or Apple desktop PCs alongside Windows PCs.
IBM said the new software makes it feasible for big businesses to offer their employees a choice of running Windows, Linux or Apple Macintosh software on desktop PCs, using the same underlying software code. This cuts the costs of managing Linux or Apple relative to Windows.
IBM's Open Client software chips away at long-time rival Microsoft's Windows franchise by making it unnecessary for companies to pay Microsoft for licenses for operations that no longer rely on Windows-based software. The move comes as corporate decision-makers have begun to mull when it makes sense to upgrade to Microsoft's Windows Vista.
"We worked with the open source community and found a way to write software once that will work regardless of operating system. It will run on Windows, Macintosh or Linux," said Scott Handy, IBM's vice president of Linux and open source.
As an alternative to Microsoft, IBM will offer its own Open Document Format (ODF) software for tasks like word processing, spreadsheets or presentations, along with Lotus collaboration, instant messaging and blog tools, and the Firefox Web browser, which is the biggest rival to Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
IBM believes that using its software can cut the cost of managing applications, maintenance and customer support costs on company networks that need to run not just Windows but other software.
IBM plans to use its "Open Client" software initially to run some 5 percent of desktop computers across its own organization, which employs around 320,000 staff worldwide.
Customer call centers and software development groups in Brazil, India, Europe and other IBM offices will take part. Pockets of Apple computer users within IBM also will be supported for the first time by Open Client.