virtualized-linux-desktopsMidas Networks, a managed service provider, thinks it has found the magic touch in a new market. The Austin, Texas-based MSP is starting to offer customers hosted/virtualized Ubuntu Linux desktops as an alternative to Microsoft desktops. Here's the scoop.

For those who'd like a little background, Ubuntu is a fast-growing Linux distribution offered by Canonical. In some ways, it's a desktop, server and mobile alternative to Red Hat Linux and Novell SUSE Linux. News of Midas Networks' strategy surfaced in a press release earlier today from Virtual Bridges, maker of the VERDE 2.0 virtualization software system.

According to today's press release:
Midas Networks in Austin, Texas is now offering clients VERDE 2.0 as a hosted desktop offering. This “software as a service” offering looks like a traditional desktop but the hosted applications permit the users access their desktops on any network-connected device where ever they happen to be.
I've left voicemails for Midas Networks co-founders Ken Tooke and Chris Boyd, and hope to get more perspectives from them soon.

Quick Thoughts

In the meantime, three observations:

1. Plenty of skeptical customers will want to hold tightly onto their more traditional Windows desktops.

2. The shift from traditional full-blown desktop PCs to virtualized desktops that sit in the cloud won't happen overnight. And it won't be a complete shift. I suspect full-blown Windows desktops will maintain market dominance for years to come.

3. However, virtualized Linux desktops -- sitting in someone's cloud -- represent a massive growth market opportunity. Even as Microsoft prepares to launch Windows 7, there are plenty of VARs, MSPs and customers who are seeking lower cost, more reliable alternatives to traditional desktop applications.

That's where Virtual Bridges, Canonical and IBM enter the picture. The trio announced a strategy to offer virtualized Ubuntu desktops in December 2008. Fast forward to the present, and Virtual Bridges says roughly 16 channel partners signed up to offer the virtualized desktop solution in 1Q 2009. That's not a huge number, but it's progress.

Still, questions remain: How will MSPs like Midas Networks brand, promote and sell the virtualized Linux desktops? How much will they charge for the solution? And what types of margins do they hope to generate?

I will be digging for answers in the hours and days ahead.

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