IBM plans $1 billion commitment to XO laptop

Supposedly TBA later this week. Hot on the heels of its $1 billion commitment to Facebook, IBM is making another big, bold bet, this time on the XO machine. Now that OLPC is releasing the XO laptop to commercial customers IBM is jumping on board in a huge way to push the machines into corporate sites. “This has nothing to do with displacing Microsoft and everything to do with providing customers with wider choice,” says Steve Mills. “The fact that the XO machine runs a non-Microsoft operating system and could become the standard platform for one-third of the world’s population if it catches on in developing nations has nothing to do with our decision to invest up to one billion dollars in XO-related projects.”

In addition to buying up to one million machines at $400 each to distribute to corporate customers in Brazil, IBM is devoting 14,000 programmers to the task of creating applications for the XO platform (first up: Lotus Notes, followed by the other Symphony productivity apps) and creating incentives for IBM business partners to bring their applications over to XO as well. Also, IBM Research is working on advanced XO concepts including next-generation salad spinners (14 patents pending but IBM promises never to use them) and developing a version of the XO environment that runs on mainframes. Also, IBM Global Services will roll out an XO practice aimed at bringing XO to vertical markets like health care, life sciences and transportation. Finally IBM will announce the creation of the XO Alliance, a multi-vendor consortium devoted to the XO platform with 14 IBMers taking seats on its 18-member board of directors and retired IBM visionary Irving Wladawsky-Berger hired as chairman and executive director. The XO Alliance will work close with XO Development Labs, a vendor-neutral development lab housed in IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center. In turn these centers will distribute their efforts to a set of 300 XO “Centers of Excellence” located around the globe. Furthermore, IBM will name Nicholas Negroponte an Esteemed IBM Fellow with funding for a new lab at MIT so XO volunteers can “collaborate with IBM Research to help in effecting a technology transfer by which the ideas and concepts created for XO can be brought to the wider commercial marketplace.”

“Once again IBM is staking a claim on innovation and thought leadership, driving synergies and delivering leveraged economies of scale across multiple platforms and markets with a global approach to open collaboration and freedom that shows once again IBM’s new openness and willingness to take ideas created outside our company and use them. It’s all about helping the kids,” CEO Samuel J. Palmisano said. “Also we’re kind of hoping it fucks up Microsoft.”