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IBM and Canonical Launch Cloud Computing Software in Africa

IBM Client for Smart Work Helps Bridge the Digital Divide for Businesses

IBM and Canonical are introducing a new, flexible personal computing software package for netbooks and other thin client devices to help businesses in Africa bridge the digital divide by leapfrogging traditional PCs and proprietary software. This is the first cloud- and premise-based Linux netbook software package offered by IBM and Canonical.

Part of IBM's Smart Work Initiative, the new package targets the rising popularity of low-cost netbooks to make IBM's industrial-strength software affordable to new, mass audiences in Africa. Businesses that could not afford traditional PCs for all employees can now use any type of device and low-cost software to enable all workers to work smarter anywhere using a variety of devices, regardless of the level of communications infrastructure.

The IBM Client for Smart Work is now available across Africa and is being piloted for other emerging and growth markets worldwide. The solution includes open standards-based email, word processing, spreadsheets, unified communication, social networking and other software for any laptop, netbook, or a variety of mobile devices. It runs on Canonical's Ubuntu Linux operating system, and provides the option to deliver collaboration through the Web in a cloud service model. This software bundle can also be extended to virtualized workspaces using VERDE from Virtual Bridges, which is available locally through business partners and voice-based collaboration pilots through IBM Research. IBM estimates that it delivers up to 50 percent savings per seat versus a Microsoft-based desktop.

"Businesses in emerging markets are looking to gain the freedom and flexibility afforded by open standards," said Bob Picciano, General Manager, IBM Lotus Software. "The IBM Client for Smart Work builds on the movement toward open standards and Web-based personal computing by giving people the power to work smarter, regardless of device."

The IBM smart client package can help African governments deliver open standards using Open Document Format (ODF), which contributes toward the savings of up to 50 percent per individual seat versus a Microsoft-based desktop based on licensing, administration and maintenance. The reduction of personal computing costs may enable governments to transfer information technology expenditures to fund mission-critical initiatives such as crisis management, education and health care.

"Starting with Africa, we see that this smart client package can help realize our vision of eliminating barriers to computer access for emerging markets," said Mark Shuttleworth, founder, Canonical. "Our IBM partnership brings together the strengths of collaboration to help our customers work smarter using this new approach."

With this new package, businesses can cultivate new suppliers and partners over the Web through IBM's LotusLive.com, which will allow them to expand service to new customers beyond their local area. Through virtualization of this collaboration software, they can exponentially increase their computing and collaboration power without additional infrastructure costs.

A network of local service providers such as Inkululeko and ZSL Inc. is expected to extend the IBM Client locally throughout Africa to government, educational institutions and businesses. In addition to local service providers, IBM will also work with leading universities such as Makerere university and academic consortiums to bring this new computing model down to individuals in the employment or attendance of learning institutions.

"Software is an important enabler of the service industry," said Professor Venansius Barya Baryamureeba, Dean, Faculty of Computing and IT, Makerere University, Uganda. "However most of the good software is unaffordable by most of the users in developing countries, hence most users in developing countries have resorted to pirated software and free software. But most free software packages can be a nightmare of setup woes, training costs, and processes that just don't fit your organization. The hope lies in affordable software that is as good as proprietary software, which benefits from economies of scales as a result of targeting a mass market."

More Stories By Krisandra Russo

Krisandra is Conference Program Manager at Cloud Expo, Inc. where annual high-energy cloud computing conference and expos are created around the world with industry-leading players.

You can contact Krisandra with events questions or comments via email "krisandra (at) sys-con.com" or at her home page http://krisandrarusso.ulitzer.com, or by phone at 201 802-3019.