IBM is looking to rain on Microsoft's parade by announcing a new offering designed to lure customers away from the soon-to-be-launched Windows 7.  However, IBM said that the product wouldn't be fully available in the US until 2010,

IBM will be  teaming up with Canonical to provide cloud- and Linux-based desktop packages in the US at half the cost of upgrading to Windows 7. It's called the IBM Client for Smart Work package, which was initially launched last month in Africa, as it was designed for emerging markets.

But IBM sees an opportunity to extend the product to the US "to help companies avoid the higher licensing, hardware upgrades and migration costs associated with Microsoft Windows 7," as IBM said. However, IBM and Canonical said it wouldn't be widely available from its full lineup of partners until 2010, with no news of plans for other countries.  That gives the industry's dominant operating system vendor a significant head start, with Microsoft's Windows 7 set for general availability from 22 October. 

IBM said the Client for Smart Work package, which is based on IBM's productivity and collaboration software, would give customers a less expensive alternative to Windows by taking advantage of existing PCs or low-cost netbooks and thin clients. Just last month, IBM announced that Lotus Symphony was being upgraded to take on Office.

"Independent market estimates range up to $2,000 for the cost of migrating to the Windows 7 operating system for many PC users," IBM argued. "New PC hardware requirements account for a significant portion of the added expense."

IBM claimed its package will help businesses save as much as 50 percent versus. Windows on software costs. IBM said Client for Smart Work would consist of the following components, some of which are already available: "Word processing, spreadsheets and presentations from IBM Lotus Symphony, which is a free-of-charge download on the web; Email from IBM Lotus Notes or the cloud-based LotusLive iNotes launched earlier this month, which starts at $3 per user, per month; Cloud-based, social networking and collaboration tools from from $10 per user, per month; and Ubuntu, an open platform for netbooks, laptops, desktops, and servers."

IBM has been this way before. Just last month, IBM announced that Lotus Symphony was being upgraded to take on Office. 

"Since the IBM Client for Smart Work is based on Eclipse, Linux and open web standards, it can integrate with any third-party software," IBM said. "This gives companies the freedom to use technologies of their choice, extend their functions and preserve existing investments."