Lotus strategist says Linux on Netbooks making inroads on Windows in 2009

Yes, I love it…  Lotus appear to be starting to take the fight to Microsoft, but not by fighting against their products (Domino vs Exchange, Notes vs Outlook, Quickr vs Sharepoint) but instead focusing on how Windows is being marginalised by Mac OS X and Linux.  eWeek’s “IBM Lotus Strategist Sees Linux on Netbooks Making Inroads vs. Windows in 2009” article tells us:

Linux and open source will start to chip away at Microsoft Windows desktop software thanks to their popularity on netbooks, those ultralight, low-cost laptops. IBM Lotus strategy director predicts this as a major trend in 2009, as well as the proliferation of messaging and collaboration technologies asa function of UCC, SAAS, cloud computing, enterprise social networks and Web services.

With just a little over two weeks to go until the New Year, technology strategists and pundits are revving their prognostication engines to predict what 2009 will usher in.

IBM is one of the vendors that sees the harsh economic climate as a catalyst for opportunity, particularly for Web 2.0 software in the workplace. Doug Heintzman, director of strategy for IBM’s Lotus collaboration software unit, discussed technologies and trends that will change the way we work in 2009.

The answers comprise the usual mixed bag we’ve come to expect from IBM. UCC (unified communications and collaboration) is getting stronger, supported by SAAS (software as a service), cloud computing, mashups, Web browser technologies, free software and, of course, Linux and open source. Expect to hear more about all of these at Lotusphere 2009 next month.

However, Heintzman said IBM has changed its tune with regard to Linux, noting that the emergence of netbooks — those cheaper, tiny laptops — have opened a crack in Microsoft’s Windows operating system hegemony. Indeed, given Microsoft’s Windows control “we’ve been pretty cautious about declaring Linux as viable on the desktop,” Heintzman told eWEEK, adding:

We may well be at an inflection that, with distributions like the Ubuntu distribution, with the rise of popularity in the Mac OS platform, maybe the market starts to fragment and the monopoly loses its power. The Vista launch didn’t help matters much. Netbooks, where people are using a basic set of capabilities on the desktop but are storing photos and music files and editing their documents in much more in an online way…. All these factors combined suggest that this may be an important inflection for this new class of ultralight laptop computers, the Asus Eee PCs and Everex CloudBooks of the world. You’re dealing with price points and memory- and processor-size restrictions that make them extremely attractive for a Linux operating system as opposed to a Windows operating system.

Heintzman, who admitted to being won over when one of his colleagues let him play with it, predicted that as more and more people begin to use netbooks for play, more robust netbooks and even desktops based on Linux will rise up as more cost-effective, secure and durable machines.

Whilst the eWeek article doesn’t make a huge play of it, these trends do point towards increased competition from IBM, given Big Blue’s commitment to platform choice and open standards.  The article goes on:

Microsoft faces other threats from free or close-to-free software suites such as IBM’s Lotus Symphony and Google Apps’ productivity and collaboration applications, will pave the way for the first serious “fissures in the world’s largest monopolies,” and downward pricing pressure on incumbencies that can charge monopolistic rent,”  Heintzman said.

He goes on to mention Sametime and UCC, plus increased prevalence of Social Networks.

An excellent article, and I am so chuffed to see a key Lotus strategist getting out to the media to tell it from the Lotus viewpoint.  A great first step on the road to Lotusphere…

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!