IBM Office Suite Takes a Whack at Microsoft Licensing Albatross
June 22, 2009 Dan Burger
IBM‘s Lotus Symphony has been a shiny new car with not enough gas in the tank. Built to be effective–and very cost effective–but missing a key ingredient. Things have changed. And anyone who is angry as hell and doesn’t want to pay the licensing fees for Microsoft Office should be happy this day has arrived.
It’s been a year since IBM introduced its free office productivity software called Lotus Symphony. The ensuing reaction was mild excitement after discovering what it could do, but more like a murmur after discovering what it could not do. The most glaring deficiency was an inability to import files from Microsoft Office 2007 documents. Without that interoperability, the Symphony excitement meter never reached than half full.
Interoperability with Microsoft Office 2007 is a big advance for Symphony 1.3, the newest release designation, but the suite remains short of a full tank of gas. There are limitations. Although importing files from Office 2007 has been added, saving files to that format has not. In this regard, Symphony users are limited to saving files that will be only compatible with the document formats used in Office 2003 or Office 2000. And when it comes to trading files with other users who are dependent on the Microsoft Office suite, this will continue to be an issue. Get everyone you work with off of Microsoft, and the problem goes away. That’s easier said than done in most cases.
Symphony, which is open source software based on the OpenOffice application suite, includes functionality for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, database manipulation, graphics, and mathematical formulations. Symphony’s limitations are the same limitations encountered by OpenOffice users.
As open source software, the productivity suite is available without charge, but, in the case of Symphony, IBM charges for support. Compared to Microsoft Office productivity suite, Symphony could potentially save hundreds of dollars per user, according to IBM. That is, of course, as long as existing company files are in the older versions of MS Office mentioned above. If the IBM price comparisons are accurate at even a $100 savings per user, a company with 100 users would be saving $100,000.
Symphony 1.3 also offers improvements in areas such as data analyzing, mail merge capabilities, and its presentations application that now includes animation along with its interoperability with Microsoft PowerPoint.
“IBM is delivering on our commitment to free businesses and consumers from having to pay for their own personal or company information over and over again,” said Kevin Cavanaugh, vice president of Lotus Software. “Now, it will be much harder to justify paying Office licensing fees when you can preserve and access your Office documents for free in Symphony.”
Additional Symphony 1.3 resources, for those most irritated by the hosing they’ve taken from Microsoft licensing agreements, can be found in the release notes, a video presentation of the productivity suite features, the Lotus Symphony Wiki, and this download site.