IBM is expected to launch a $1 billion plan to take on Microsoft in the software technology sector.

A subscription-only Financial Times report states: "IBM will attempt to lure developers with co-marketing deals, free software, low-cost development tools and access to large customer accounts – if they agree to translate their applications to run on IBM software platforms."

The move is part of IBM chief executive Sam Palmisano strategy to invigorate the company prior to the predicted upturn in global technology markets, according to the FT.

IBM Software Group head Steve Mills said: "We want to establish deep relationships with thousands of software developers and we want them to be tightly connected to our technology."

IBM will need to persuade software developers to produce applications for its middleware. The FT explains that close relationships with large enterprise applications companies such as PeopleSoft, Siebel and SAP have boosted revenues at twice the rate of overall growth, according to IBM estimates.

IBM announced that 200 software developers had agreed to move their software to IBM middleware at its Partnerworld conference. But it said it had thousands more to recruit.