SAN FRANCISCO - In the hopes of displacing the dominant Windows operating system, IBM ( IBM) is corralling its Linux partners into a concerted push to get desktop Linux off the ground.

As LinuxWorld kicked off Tuesday, Big Blue announced it is working with Novell ( NOVL) and Red Hat ( RHT), commercial vendors of the open source operating system, to deliver a bundled alternative to Microsoft's ( MSFT) Windows.

Canonical, which sells subscription support for its popular Ubuntu free Linux operating system, is also joining the party. Canonical provides paid support for its version.

IBM's announcement -- to deliver to hardware vendors and integrators a package of operating system and application software ready for preloading onto PCs -- was one of several that is intended to push Linux adoption across the board.

Integrators - including PC vendors - will be able to bundle IBM's Lotus collaboration software and Symphony desktop-productivity software with the Linux OS from any of the three vendors.

Announcements from PC hardware makers are coming, says Inna Kuznetsova, director for IBM's Linux strategy. Earlier this year, Austrian integrator VDEL configured a PC with IBM's collaboration package on Red Hat's OS for the Eastern European market.

IBM has made a big bet on Linux over the past decade, pouring investment into its development and commercialization. In that period, the operating system has made limited headway replacing Microsoft's operating system and applications inside companies.

Microsoft executives suggested recently that the open-source threat to the Windows franchise has largely been neutralized. Even with IBM's staunch support for the Microsoft alternative on servers, Linux for the desktop limps along.

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