IBM announced last week that it had joined forces with Canonical and Virtual Bridges to unveil a Linux-based, virtual desktop-powered computing solution that, according to IBM, could help IT shops realize significant cost savings over comparable desktop computing solutions offered by Microsoft. Canonical is supplying the Ubuntu Linux distribution, while Virtual Bridges is providing the virtual desktop component by way of its Virtual Enterprise Remote Desktop Environment, or VERDE. IBM's Open Collaboration Client Solution software (OCCS) provides the application software, including IBM Lotus Symphony, IBM Lotus Notes and other Lotus applications.

According to IBM, this news is the latest in a series of announcements in 2008 that focused on working with their partners to deliver "Microsoft-alternative desktops." IBM stressed the competitive cost of their desktop computing solution when compared to equivalent Microsoft offerings, claiming that it could save IT administrators $500 to $800 per user on Microsoft software licensing costs, $258 per user for hardware (since there wouldn't be a need to upgrade PCs to run Vista and Office 2007), $40 to $145 per user for reduced power consumption due to desktop virtualization, and a significant reduction in IT servicing and support costs.

In a statement included with the IBM news release, Canonical Vice President Malcolm Yates extolled the virtues of IBM's solution. "With the benefits of open standards over a proprietary platform come the freedom to select software in a heterogeneous environment," said Yates. "Combining Ubuntu with IBM's Open Client software applications we can break out of Microsoft dependencies completely and significantly reduce total cost of ownership."

The reaction in the IT blogosphere has been varied, with my colleague Paul Thurrott questioning if any business customers were actually asking for a Microsoft-free solution. Joe Panettieri over at Seeking Alpha takes a different view, and wonders if IBM's new product offering could contribute to driving Microsoft's markest share downwards. "Are we looking at 85% market share for Microsoft Windows within three years? I sure think so," blogs Panettieri. "And even Red Hat (RHT), our resident blogger believes, must be starting to wonder if they should have found more aggressive or progressive ways to promote Linux desktops."

So what do you think? Does IBM's "Microsoft-free" desktop computing solution sound like an attractive, low-cost alternative to an existing Microsoft IT infrastructure? Or does the retraining cost and possible end-user confusion make such a migration to a Linux platform a non-starter in your book? Tell us what you think by adding a post below this article, or visit the Windows IT Pro forums.

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