IBM has announced a drive to try to ‘free' desktops from Microsoft software by collaborating with Linux vendors.

The slow pace at which organisations are adopting Windows Vista has seemingly created an opportunity for IBM and Linux distributors to create a change in desktop usage. IBM, along with Canonical (Ubuntu), Novell and Red Hat, plans to work with hardware makers to build and market PCs pre-loaded with Linux and Lotus software.

IBM has reconfigured its Lotus Foundations software (including Lotus Notes, Sametime and Symphony) to make it cheaper to install on Linux PCs. It hopes that small businesses in particular will choose to use the products, for which there are many collaboration tools available.

Jeff Smith, vice president of open source and Linux middleware for IBM, has reportedly said there hasn't previously been a choice for small and medium sized businesses. He explained that organisations that don't have a large IT infrastructure would easily be able to use the software – only a few clicks would be required.

IBM is expected to announce its hardware partners, and intends to make the repackaged middleware for Apple's OS later this year.