IBM has teamed up with Ubuntu and Virtual Bridges to offer a virtualised version of the popular Lotus Notes software. The companies claimed that users would be able to experience significant savings compared to a Windows-based machine.

The user will see an identical screen to a traditional PC but the software will be provided through a server with many devices being linked to that one server.

The Virtual desktop itself, will be provided by Virtual Bridges; the underlying operating system is Canonical's Ubuntu while IBM will be providing its Open Collaboration Client Solution software (OCCS) based on IBM Lotus Symphony, IBM Lotus Notes and Lotus applications.

"When we look back several years from now, I think we'll see this time as an inflection point when the economic climate pushed the virtual Linux desktop from theory to practice," said Inna Kuznetsova, director, IBM Linux Strategy in a statement. "The financial pressures on organisations are staggering and the management of PCs is unwieldy. Today's virtual desktop is delivering superior collaborative software, an innovative delivery method, and an open-source operating system that is demanding clients' consideration."

According to IBM estimates, the level of savings could be as much as $1200 per user, on top of which there would be savings on IT departments as they would looking at reducing the amount spent on PC support, security admin and software support.

"With the benefits of open standards over a proprietary platform come the freedom to select software in a heterogeneous environment," said Malcolm Yates, vice president in statement, Canonical. "Combining Ubuntu with IBM's Open Client software applications we can break out of Microsoft dependencies completely and significantly reduce total cost of ownership."

Alan Bell from Linux consultancy, The Open Learning Centre,  said that this was significant move from IBM. The Foundations server is a clever software/hardware combination that provides a lot of server services such as file & print and email to lots of thick client computers," he said. "This means that the client has applications such as Lotus Notes and Symphony running locally."

He added that today's launch changes the game. "This offering is new and different, it puts the applications on a big fat computer in the datacentre and leaves a thin client. This is quite a smart way to put Linux on the desktop, without actually disturbing your existing desktops.  I think a lot of companies will be looking carefully at this, with the CFO checking out the savings (the software savings are real, but there is hardware to buy in the server room) and the CTO getting a calculator out to see how much bandwidth all these thin clients will need and what kind of servers can fit enough RAM."

The one downside that Bell could see was the amount of RAM that the server would need, even taking the most generous view, he said, "I estimate that if you have 100 users then that comes to 30 gigabytes of RAM for the server."