Another threat to Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows and Office crown jewels? The company is already dealing with the rising popularity of Apple’s (AAPL) Macs, and the slow evolution of free Office suite alternatives like Google (GOOG) Apps. Now IBM (IBM) is aiming for its own piece of Microsoft’s pie — IBM today says it will be pitching its corporate customers Linux-based terminals without hard drives that are “Microsoft-free.”
WSJ: The software package, available immediately, uses the Linux operating system and a set of IBM office applications that can be displayed on so-called thin clients, which don’t have processing units or hard drives.
IBM, based in Armonk, N.Y., says pricing for the Virtual Linux Desktop would range from $59 to $289 per user, depending on what software and service level the customer chose.
IBM estimates that a corporate customer licensing the software would save $500 to $800 a year per user, compared with buying a licence for Microsoft’s Vista operating system, Office suite and collaboration tools.
Will it work? Not soon. Companies including IBM, Oracle (ORCL), and Sun (JAVA) have had a very tough time convincing companies so far that thin clients are worth the few extra dollars in savings. Because usually they’re not.
Why? Because in reality, desktop PCs are very, very cheap — and worth their price. Even if you don’t require Windows or Office all the time, there’s still a good chance that most people will need to run some software that runs on a major (Windows or Mac) operating system fairly regularly, and with some actual processing power behind it.
And further, most Linux operating systems and the software that runs on top of it offer a terrible user experience. There’s a good reason people are still paying extra to run Windows on new, Internet-centric “netbook” computers — because for normal people, it’s better than Linux.