Linux's appeal growing in emerging countries

IBM is cashing in on the Linux craze in Brazil, Russia, China and other emerging markets, selling its services and hardware in places that don't like Windows –- or the U.S.

Recognizing a huge growth opportunity for its open source and consulting business, IBM is pushing Linux on the

desktop in countries, such as Brazil, Russia and China. Not surprisingly, the company is making huge inroads as the demand for inexpensive and easily deployable computer system rapidly rises in these countries.

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Experts said that with fewer resources, governments and businesses in countries such as Brazil are looking for ways to build standardized applications with fewer dollars. With the deployment of an open system like Linux, companies also get the freedom of choice and avoid locking themselves into one single, proprietary vendor.

"Linux resonates much better in those economies," said Gary Hein, vice president and service director of application platform strategies service, with Burton Group of Salt Lake City.

IBM said it views the government, retail and financial services as the hottest sectors adopting open source in emerging countries like Brazil, and is tailoring open systems for these industries.

One example is Casas Bahia, one of the largest retailers in Brazil. The company uses IBM's retail Linux solution for storefront systems. The retailer faced the challenges of bringing costs down, while increasing the functionality and scalability of its point-of-sale systems in the stores. Working with IBM to deploy Linux, Casas Bahia was able increase the flexibility, stability and security in its existing environment, the company said.

Emerging countries are often in a unique position to quickly make the leap to the latest technologies, such as Linux, because they typically haven't made enough investments in legacy technology systems to justify maintaining or upgrading those assets.

Linux resonates much better in those economies.
Gary Hein
Vice president Burton Group

"IBM is going into markets where Microsoft has minimal presence," said Charles King, research director with Union City, Calif.-based Sageza Group. "So they're not asking people to give up an established infrastructure -- a Windows footprint. It makes it much easier to sell."

In addition, the lack of traditional landline telephone infrastructure in these countries has hastened the adoption of mobile phones in many emerging nations, since these countries did not have the option of upgrading or installing costly landline phone networks.

"IBM is seeing customers increasingly looking to develop open platforms for their desktop environments so as to not be tied into one vendor," said Peter Nielsen, director of Linux services strategy, IBM Global Services.

Hein agreed that an open environment is extremely appealing to emerging markets. There's a lot of animosity toward Microsoft, as well as the U.S., and that is playing out.

"It's not so much IBM versus Microsoft as much as it is which company is giving me more choices –- at least the perception of choice," Hein said.

Maybe even more appealing, said experts, is that IBM isn't selling one product as much as its services.

IBM supports a range of open client platform and Linux platforms, including Red Hat; Novell/SUSE; Conectiva, a Latin American Linux distributor; as well as others. The new offerings focus on certain areas ripe for a move to Linux: call centers, technical workstations, kiosks, ATMs and point-of-sale terminals; in addition to specific industry targets, such as retail, bank branch transformation and government facilities.

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