Sam Palmisano has thrown down the gauntlet. The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of IBM Corp. has challenged his company to move to the Linux desktop over the next two years, according to a leaked internal memo written by CIO Bob Greenberg.

“Our chairman has challenged the IT organization, and indeed all of IBM to move to a Linux based desktop by the end of 2005,” Greenberg wrote. “This means replacing productivity, Web access and viewing tools with open standards based equivalents.”

The company has formed a new initiative called the Open Desktop project office to facilitate the move, which will involve contributions from Greenberg’s office as well as from IBM’s software and research groups, according to the memo.

The memo was written by Greenberg in November and circulated to select members of his team, an IBM spokeswoman said recently. She downplayed the significance of the memo, noting that the company had no specific plans to move to the Linux desktop. “This (memo) was not a directive, but a challenge to an internal team,” she said. “It is routine for IBM to challenge its internal IT team to rigorously test new platforms and technology inside IBM.”

Linux and the Open Office business application suite have had some high-profile successes over the last year. But the open source revolution has yet to catch on at the corporate desktop. Linux represents only 2.8 percent of the client operating system market, according to IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky. IDC doesn’t expect that figure to change significantly over the next three years.

Kusnetzky said that a switch to Linux could make sense for some parts of IBM but that an effort to move the company’s entire work force of 316,000 employees seemed unlikely.



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