BetaNews: IBM debuts beta of Lotus Symphony 4.0 for Linux


… The Armonk, N.Y. company’s software is based on code from OpenOffice, and is being marketing as an alternative to Microsoft Office.

Symphony is based on the Open Document Format standard, and includes tools for users to import Microsoft Office and Adobe PDF files into the suite. IBM says this would make it easier to integrate the suite into current deployments. …

… "Symphony was designed to provide freedom of choice and freedom from overpriced commodities," Lotus software chief Kevin Cavanaugh said. "Symphony and Linux are a natural fit for the growing ranks of businesses and individuals who have better things to do with their money." …


I haven’t written much about IBM Symphony to date. Symphony’s USP’s are "free"and multiplatform which makes sence and ODF which for some time was the only ISO standard document format . If you’re going to make yet another attempt to concur the desktop at least find your niche …

But this approach is not simply the alternative to MS Office; the way it’s positioned requires companies to also replace the desktop OS with "free" Linux, which complicates things I would say. IBM of all companies should know that enterprises run more than just Office on their desktop machines.

What I find surprising, is that IBM is taking the desktop application route with their suite and not that Rich Internet Aplpications (RIAs) i.e. develop an alternative in line with Google Apps. Although they are most likely working on such an approach , they seem to put all of their effort into creating something similar like Microsoft Office.

Also by emphasizing too much on an alternative to Microsoft Office, the focus is on the productivity side alone, functions such as wordprocessing, spreadsheets and presentations and less on Microsoft’s approach of evolving Microsoft Office into Microsoft Office System since the introduction of 2003 Microsoft Office System and the latest release 2007 Microsoft Office System.

… The 2007 Microsoft Office system includes new and improved application suites, business tools, server platforms, and services. Find sales and technical-readiness information, as well as videos, case studies, podcasts, and demos from partners who are building innovative solutions based on the new platform. …


Sure Microsoft Office 2007 can also be seen and implemented as ‘just another’ productivity suite, but next to that the seemless integration with communication and collaboration tools (inclusing Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007), BI applications and 3rd Party solutions turn it into a very comprehensive platform.

In other terms desktop productivity is something of the 90’s; in todays business it is about communication and collaboration with your productivity tools at the center. This is (becoming) a platform decision.

I also wonder how much time and money IBM is investing in usability, and Accessibility features. And where does IBM Symphony differ from solutions already out there in the market for years (OpenOffice, StarOffice) ?

In summary, business that are considering shifting desktop OS and desktop productivity apps should keep in mind :

  • Productivity Tools are the applications your end users are working with every single day to buy, sell, create or whatever they do to grow the business. Do you provide them with commidity tools or with the best tools possible ?
  • There is a platform decision involved for your users to communicate and collaborate and to provide functions for compliancy and document retention (IBM sells Lotus Notes / Domino, Connections, Quikr, SameTime, websphere, etc)
  • There’s migration involved (IBM has a services organisation with many consultants and engineers)
  • This is not about Office at all…