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Thursday, January 17, 2008, 09:40 am PT (12:40 pm ET)

IBM's Lotus software coming to Apple's iPhone, iPod touch, Macs

Microsoft rivals Apple Inc. and IBM Corp. will soon announce a partnership that will deliver a handful of IBM's Lotus software packages for Apple's handheld and Mac products, the Associated Press is reporting.

Specifically, IBM at its Lotusphere conference in Orlando, Fla., next week will formally announce that it plans to deploy its Lotus Notes e-mail package for Apple's iPhone and iPod touch mobile devices.

The software, which requires use of IBM's Domino e-mail server program, will be free for users who already have a Lotus Web-access license and start at $39 per year for new users, the AP claims.

In addition, IBM also plans to release Lotus Notes and the free Lotus Symphony "productivity" package - which includes documents, spreadsheets and other Microsoft Office-like software - for Apple's Mac computer line.

The move is reported to be part of a broader push on the part of IBM to find more avenues for its software and take advantage of Apple's natural affinity for Microsoft alternatives.

The AP speculates that if IBM, which counts 135 million Lotus users worldwide, can get companies to let their employees check Lotus e-mail on iPhones, the partnership could make Apple's gadget more competitive with Research in Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry and other business-targeted smart phones.

Though IBM and Apple have largely remained competitors in the PC market outside of Apple's previous use of IBM's PowerPC chips in its Mac lines, the two sides are now said to appreciate that they "have a lot in common."

"We're going to cross-pollinate," said IBM spokesman Mike Azzi.

IBM's Lotus Notes e-mail package for the iPhone and iPod touch will reportedly make use of Apple's upcoming iPhone software developers kit (SDK), which has presumably been seeded to IBM ahead of its formal release sometime next month.