IBM eyes opportunity in G2009 failure

A spokesman for IBM's open-source effort in the Asia-Pacific region says he is excited at the new opportunity opened up for open-source products by the collapse of the G2009 bulk agreement with Microsoft.

The attraction of a bulk arrangement that government agencies could effortlessly participate in has been one inhibiting factor on their looking at alternative sources of software, says Edward Orange.

Now there is a hiatus in the three-year deals, each agency will be forced into individual negotiations and the gap of perceived convenience between Microsoft and open-source offerings will shrink, Orange says.

This could see IBM making inroads in the two big areas where Microsoft, he says, earns most of its revenue -- the operating system and the Office desktop -- by easing Linux and the Lotus Symphony office product suite into the gap.

The other major inhibitor to such a change, he acknowledges, is the perceived looseness of support provided by a nebulous open source "community". Once they begin using it, he says, agencies will see Symphony gives no compatibility problems. But to assist them over that psychological hump, IBM will provide a support package for the suite.

Independent software sellers are also excited about the opportunity presented by Lotus Foundations, IBM's equivalent to Microsoft's Small Business Server. At lest one is preparing a play with its own security products to integrate with Foundations -- though a director said last week the company is not prepared to go into detail yet.

Orange does not see the opportunity as limited to replacing products in government agencies. If IBM can make an inroad into the educational sector too, he says, it can begin changing the national consciousness that Microsoft is the only safe solution.

He relates this to recent remarks by Prime Minister John Key on the need for innovation as an economy booster and to IBM's own "Smart Planet" initiative, which envisages a world saturated with sensors and interlocking networks. Both argue a need for people to break out of rigid roles and machines out of restrictions by proprietary components, Orange says.

"This is a big opportunity for IBM to go in and help schools and government and to drive innovation and openness".

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