Lotus Notes on Linux: Time to bite?

Officially, a version of IBM's Lotus Notes client for Linux wasn't supposed to arrive until "Hannover," the planned next release of the Notes platform. But IBM surprised customers today with the announcement of a Linux version of Lotus Notes 7.

It's available now for the latest edition of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, according to IBM, with support for Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 expected shortly after that product ships.

The new version of Notes gives Linux users a full-featured alternative to Microsoft's Exchange enterprise messaging environment, something that's become increasingly important as companies rely more and more on messaging for their daily business. But IBM may be late to the game, as many Linux users have already begun moving toward other products, such as Evolution, Scalix, and Zimbra.

The Notes client for Linux won't be a freebie, either, which means it's unlikely to win IBM any new customers from among the Linux faithful, many of whom are cost-sensitive above all else. Still, more telling is the fact that existing Notes licenses will be fully transferable -- a workstation that's running Notes on Windows today can re-install with Red Hat and the Linux version of Notes for no additional charge.

We're seeing the begininng of a concerted effort on the part of companies like IBM and Novell to challenge Windows for a piece of the corporate desktop. The question that remains is whether the uncertainty around Windows Vista is enough to persuade customers to bite.