IBM is offering services to help customers run its Notes software on a mixture of Windows and Linux operating systems.

The new services, dubbed Open Client, are designed to make it easier for customers to run its Lotus collaboration software on a mixture of Windows and Linux desktop operating systems.

The Open Client services will include desktop management and application migration support and advice on best practices. Red Hat and its main Linux distribution rival, Novell will provide operating system services.

With Open Client and other initiatives, IBM's now seeking to differentiate its Lotus collaboration software from Microsoft's Exchange offering by stressing its multi-platform capabilities. Microsoft doesn't provide support for Linux.

IBM has also been slow to come out with versions of its Notes client and Sametime instant messaging software that can run natively on the open source operating system. The vendor only announced native Linux support for Notes and Sametime in July and August of last year respectively. Previously, users had to rely on web clients or software emulation.

It became easier for IBM to offer native Linux support once it moved to new base versions of its software, including Notes and Sametime. The new versions run on a middleware layer from the open-source Eclipse Foundation, which IBM calls the Eclipse Rich Client Platform.

Open Client covers Notes, Sametime, WebSphere Portal 6.0 for building portal applications and services accessible by a Web browser and Lotus Expeditor, an Eclipse-based client development platform for composite applications.

IBM plans to add widen the scope of its Open Client services later this year to add in support for Apple's Macintosh operating system. The vendor also intends Open Client to include Lotus Notes 8, Lotus Connections and Lotus Quickr, when they ship later this year.