IBM has unveiled a new Netbook software package designed to help businesses in Africa.
Partnering with Ubuntu Linux sponsor Canonical, IBM announced on Wednesday that its new software package will use a Linux-based operating system and cloud computing, offering users in Africa an alternative to conventional and costly PCs and applications.
With traditional computers often too pricey, many businesses in Africa have opted instead to equip their employees with low-cost Netbooks. The IBM Client for Smart Work takes advantage of that trend by providing a collection of open-source software specifically for Netbooks and other thin clients, said IBM.
Running on Canonical's Ubuntu Linux operating system, the package offers open-standards-based e-mail, word processing, a spreadsheet application, communication tools, and social-networking features. In addition, users can collaborate with each other through a cloud-computing model. IBM said the package can also work on virtual desktops using the VERDE system from Virtual Bridges, which will be available through business partners.
"Businesses in emerging markets are looking to gain the freedom and flexibility afforded by open standards," said Bob Picciano, general manager for 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."
Along with the new package, Big Blue will offer a subscription to LotusLive.com starting at $10 per month. The LotusLive network will let businesses connect with partners, suppliers, and customers through file sharing, virtual meetings, instant messaging, and social networking.
With a focus on health care, IBM will also provide a voice computing option whereby a doctor can access the Smart Work package by voice to better collaborate with other medical professionals from remote locations.
IBM said that a network of local providers will offer the software package to governments, schools, and businesses throughout Africa. IBM will also work with universities to spread the software to the academic community.
Though available only in Africa for now, the software package is being tested in other emerging markets around the world.
Big Blue estimates that the package can save businesses up to 50 percent per user over a Windows-based desktop. The company did not announce specific prices, saying that they would depend on the configuration and support requirements.