Last month during LinuxCon, IBM and Canonical announced their Client for Smart Work initiative: a client package that runs Ubuntu and uses Eclipse and Lotus products to provide users with a solid client with the capability to connect to cloud-based services. The Smart Work client will run on netbooks, thin-clients, and smartphones.
In the Sept. 24 announcement, both companies stressed this new client would be initially offered in Africa, sold through local service providers. Even the the cloud services, IBM hoped, would be offered from local African providers, according the a September interview with Bob Sutor.
"'The idea is really to drive local partnerships around offering this,' Sutor, IBM's VP of open source and Linux, told [Channel Register]. 'So that doesn't mean users be sitting in Cape Town and connecting to a cloud somewhere in Iowa.'"
Interestingly, IBM indicated at the time that they would offer the product in Africa first and then to other emerging markets. "Interestingly" because, as it turns out, the next market IBM and Canonical chose to offer the Smart Work client was here in the US.
So, is this a not-so-subtle commentary about the state of the US economy? No, it's really IBM and Canonical switching up their game to try to get in front of the scheduled Oct. 22 release of Microsoft Windows 7.
Marketing to US Businesses
The line of reasoning is clear: since Smart Work is such a boon to emerging markets, why not push the fact that the same client would help companies save up to 50 percent per seat on software costs versus a Microsoft-based desktop, and avoid requisite hardware upgrades that would likely be needed to jump from Windows XP and Vista to Windows 7?
"Independent market estimates range up to $2,000 for the cost of migrating to the Windows 7 Operating System for many PC users." the companies said in their joint announcement today, "new PC hardware requirements account for a significant portion of the added expense."
Just as in Africa, IBM and Canonical expect expect to enlist local partners to offer IBM Client for Smart Work in US, starting in 2010. While not a lot of vendors were announced for the African version of the project, the US announcement highlighted "regional systems integrators, ZSL and CSScorp; virtual desktop provider, Virtual Bridges, and its distributors, Midas Networks and KalariSys; and several online, vertical industry businesses. IBM is also targeting the education market by collaborating with university faculty through the IBM Academic Initiative."
The announcment also outlined the Smart Work software components:
- "Word processing, spreadsheets, presentations from IBM Lotus Symphony, which is a free-of-charge download on the Web;
- "Email from IBM Lotus Notes or the cloud-based LotusLive iNotes launched earlier this month, which starts at $3 per user, per month;
- "Cloud-based, social networking and collaboration tools from LotusLive.com, ranging from $10 per user, per month; and
- "Canonical Ubuntu, a community-developed Linux distribution for netbooks, laptops, desktops, and servers."
The strategy makes sense, especially when factoring in the upgrade headaches involved from going from XP to Windows 7. A lot of businesses may look at such a migration and wonder if it's really worth it. That's exactly the market deomgraphic IBM and Canonical are trying to catch.