IBM plans US$100M expansion of Workplace investment

IBM said it has added $100 million, to be spent over the next three years, to its budget for promoting its Workplace software.

IBM plans to spend US$100 million during the next three years to expand Linux support to the client side of its Lotus Workplace collaboration applications, a move it said would give customers more choice in their desktop operating systems.

In an announcement Thursday, the company said it will invest the money in software development, testing and evaluation, independent software vendor support and channel marketing.

"Since customers have been looking for ways to extend the value of Linux to the desktop, IBM felt the time was right to deliver a fully supported Linux client alternative," Ambuj Goyal, general manager of Workplace, Portal and Collaboration Software for IBM, said in a statement.

Arthur Fontaine, a senior market manager in IBM's Lotus Software Group, said here at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo that the company is racheting up its Workplace efforts to allow users to have desktop Linux alternatives. "The investment we're making really signifies our confidence that the client (market for Linux) is ready to take off," he said. "It's kind of a lead and seed strategy. We're saying that everything we do, Linux will be the focus of it, even more than in the past."

As part of that effort, the Workplace client will offer Linux support in Version 2.5, which is expected to be released this quarter. A Macintosh version will also be released in the future, he said. The Workplace server application is already cross-platform-capable.

"The ability to have all of these things in one place, without platform dependency, is really what has our customers excited," Fontaine said. "We're not saying you have to go with Windows, we're not saying you have to go with Linux. We're saying it doesn't matter anymore. "

Later this quarter, IBM plans to integrate the operations of the Lotus Workplace and Notes applications so all work can be done in the same Workplace interface. That capability will be extended to Linux users within the next year.

Pioneer Petroleums is waiting for the next version of Workplace before it completes a rollout of Workplace to its 150 stores, according to Dale Sinstead, director of information systems and technology at the Canadian retailer. So far it has rolled out Workplace to 25 Linux desktops, he said.

Pioneer is relying on IBM Workplace, running on Linux, to give store employees access to messaging, calendaring, scheduling and company document libraries. Sinstead said he's looking forward to the new version for its advanced tools, improved spreadsheet technology, increased performance and better integration with its Lotus Domino server.

Computerworld's Carol Sliwa contributed to this story.

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