I.B.M. Promotes Power of Linux

The New York Times

September 4, 2003

I.B.M. is intensifying its battle with Microsoft over the increasingly popular Linux operating system with a big campaign to begin tomorrow, intended to burnish the image of Linux rather than sell I.B.M. products and services.

The centerpiece of the campaign is a 90-second television commercial, directed by Joe Pytka, with an ethereal style, uncharacteristic of I.B.M., that is reminiscent of the film "2001: A Space Odyssey."

The spot depicts Linux, developed a decade ago, as a 10-year-old boy being taught by experts who visit him to impart words of wisdom. The experts include Muhammad Ali, the academician Henry Louis Gates, the director Penny Marshall, the former coach John Wooden, and an astronomer and a plumber.

The campaign, which also includes newspaper and interactive ads, is by the longtime I.B.M. agency, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide in New York, part of the WPP Group.

"This is a pretty bold way of saying we support the Linux movement," said Lisa Baird, vice president for worldwide integrated marketing communications at I.B.M. in Armonk, N.Y. "We want to put it front and center to be open, not proprietary." Her reference was to the open-source nature of Linux, with its freely shared code, compared with software developed under patent and copyright protections.

In June, Steven A. Ballmer, chief executive at Microsoft, said I.B.M. was Microsoft's chief competitor and described the growth of free software like Linux as a threat to Microsoft's product lineup and development plans.

The campaign uses the word "open" to symbolize the shared elements of Linux; there is a Web site (www.ibm.com/open) and the commercial will first run during the CBS coverage of the U.S. Open tennis tournament on Sunday.

Copyright 2003