IBM is planning to release professional software that helps lower the cost of using Macs or Linux computers within mixed Windows networks.

The software is called 'Open Client Offering'. It's based on open-source software as well as software IBM has created in house and in partnership with Novell and Red Hat.

The company claims that Open Client Offering makes it possible for business users to offer employees their choice of running Mac, Linux or Windows systems.

The solution obviates the need for companies to pay Microsoft for licences for operatons that no longer solely rely on that company's software.

"We worked with the open-source community and found a way to write software once that will work regardless of operating system. It will run on Windows, Macintosh or Linux," said Scott Handy, IBM's vice president of Linux and open source.

The company will also offer its own Open Document Format applications for word processing and other applications as an alternative to Microsoft Office.

IBM will use its solution initially to run 5 per cent of its computers within its own organisation, a report claims.