As promised several months ago, in partnership with Canonical, IBM has begun offering its Microsoft-free systems bundled with a Lotus suite of office applications and collaboration tools running on top of Ubuntu Linux. The machines are designed to run in a virtual configuration, as thin clients, with the software stored on remote servers.

IBM claims the system can save businesses $500 to $800 per user on Microsoft software licenses along with up to $258 per user on hardware and bring additional savings in power and air conditioning costs. According to the company, the virtual Linux desktop suite could cost companies as little as $59 per person, which includes a minimal configuration of $49 for the VERDE desktop virtualization software, $10 for Ubuntu Linux support and no cost for Lotus Symphony productivity software.

IBM is counting on the prevalent economic pressures to help make its “Microsoft-free” offering more appealing and touts the benefits of open standards over a proprietary platform. We should note that IBM’s calculations don’t factor in the cost of extra server and networking hardware that might be required for a company to adopt this environment – they also don’t mention any plans to host and deliver the software itself as a service.

Details aside, though, one has to wonder if corporate customers are willing to revive an environment where all their data is stored centrally instead of locally.