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IBM to invest $100 million in Linux push

The company plans to build support for the open-source operating system into desktop applications for its Workplace software.

IBM on Thursday unveiled a plan to spend $100 million over the next three years to build support for Linux into desktop applications for its Workplace software.

The company said the money will go toward support programs designed for independent software vendors, programs for channels and partners, research and development, sales and marketing, and various technology and integration centers.

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IBM's Workplace software is built around its Java-based WebSphere Portal software, which delivers applications and documents from servers to PCs or handheld devices running Windows or Linux. The software can present information in a Web browser that has full graphical capabilities and can be used offline.

IBM said the decision stemmed from the increasing popularity of Linux among its customers. According to the company, the number of customers opting for the Linux platform for applications such as WebSphere Portal, instant messaging and Web-based document sharing saw high double-digit growth in 2004.

"Since customers have been looking for ways to extend the value of Linux to the desktop, IBM felt the time was right to deliver a fully supported Linux client alternative," Ambuj Goyal, IBM's general manager of Workplace, Portal and Collaboration Software, said in a statement.

Big Blue hopes that the new project will result in the development of new and cheaper applications that use Linux and thus will enhance the choices available to its customers.

IBM's Workplace software, designed to compete with Microsoft's market-leading Office bundle, is slated for release in the next quarter.