In an internal memo that reached the Internet, an IBM Corp. executive challenges company employees to abandon Microsoft operating systems by the end of next year.
Such a shift would be a dramatic boost for IBM's efforts to sell its corporate customers software based on the open-source Linux operating system. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)
The message from IBM's chief information officer, Robert M. Greenberg, says Big Blue's chairman, Samuel Palmisano, had challenged the company's information-technology department, "and indeed all of IBM, to move to a Linux-based desktop before the end of 2005."
"This means replacing productivity, Web access and viewing tools with open standards-based equivalents," Greenberg wrote to his staff. "You need to have people participate in this project. You'll want people that can bring together the business and technical perspectives from your organization."
The November memo was obtained and published this week by The Inquirer, a British technology news site.
IBM spokeswoman Trink Guarino confirmed Thursday that the memo was legitimate but said it had been taken out of context. She said IBM has "no such plans" to shift to Linux-based PCs.
Guarino said Greenberg sent the memo to fewer than 14 people, and was merely trying to motivate his team to get aggressive about testing Linux-based applications that could prove useful for the company and its customers.
Greenberg's memo lumped the Linux work with an IBM-wide effort to incorporate "on demand" computing, a project Big Blue also is pushing to customers.
Among other things, it involves integrating diverse internal computing applications into a common framework.
"These are ambitious projects that cut through all of our company and extend deeply into our external messages," the memo concludes "I look forward to your strong support and participation."
Unlike the proprietary Windows operating systems, whose software blueprints Microsoft closely guards as a trade secret, Linux's core instructions are public and freely available.
Linux has become an increasingly popular alternative to Windows and other proprietary operating systems on servers that power the Internet and corporate networks.
The next step, for its adherents, is pushing Microsoft off the desktop.