Notes on Linux: One small step

Officially, a version of IBM's Lotus Notes client for Linux wasn't supposed to arrive until sometime in 2007 with the planned next release of the Notes platform. But IBM surprised customers last week with a Linux version of Lotus Notes 7, as much as a year ahead of schedule.

The new version gives Linux users a full-featured alternative to Microsoft's Exchange enterprise messaging environment. But IBM may be late to the game, with many Linux users moving toward other products, such as Evolution, Scalix, and Zimbra.

The new version of Notes is available now for the latest edition of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Support for Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 is expected after that product ships.

But the Notes client isn't a freebie. It's intended for existing Notes licensees, according to Arthur Fontaine, senior offering manager at IBM. That means it's unlikely to win IBM any new customers from among the cost-sensitive Linux faithful.

Still, existing Notes licenses will be fully transferable. That means a workstation that's running Notes on Windows today can re-install with Red Hat and the Linux version of Notes for no additional charge.

Lotus Notes on Linux is just one small step in a long march to upset Windows' dominance of the corporate desktop. The question that remains is whether allure of Linux and the uncertainty around Windows Vista are enough to persuade customers to start the journey.

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