Netscape hops onboard Lindows Inc. said Tuesday that it reached a deal with AOL Time Warner Inc. (AOLTW) to include the company's Netscape branded mail, browser and instant messaging (IM) software with its low-cost Linux-based operating system.

The deal places the two Microsoft Corp. rivals firmly in one camp against the software juggernaut.

Lindows, founded last year and promptly mired in a copyright infringement suit from Microsoft over the similarity between the Windows and Lindows names, has staked out its ground as a low-cost alternative to the Microsoft's dominant Windows OS. Lindows allows users to run applications designed for Windows as well as the open-source Linux system.

Meanwhile, AOLTW's Netscape browser battles head-to-head with Microsoft's Internet Explorer, and its AOL Internet service guns against Microsoft Network (MSN).

The alliance between the two Microsoft competitors will not only provide LindowsOS users with the Netscape products, but will also allow users to access America Online (AOL) mail and Instant Messenger (AIM) without logging onto AOL.

News of the agreement comes one week after Lindows released an upgrade to its software, LindowsOS version 2. The company said that its engineers worked with AOLTW engineers to customize Netscape 7 for bundling with version 2.

Currently, the LindowsOS is only available to consumers who have purchased a computer with the software already loaded on it. Lindows struck a deal with retailer last June to sell low-priced computers fitted with LindowsOS. However, the San Diego, California, software maker is prepping for a general release of its OS later this year.

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