Alternative to Microsoft Office: IBM Symphony

This just in from news:

IBM Thursday announced upgrades to and a roadmap for its 15-month-old Lotus Symphony suite of productivity tools, emphasizing it indeed offers an alternative to Microsoft Office.

The move comes after Microsoft recently said that a court order to remove Office from store shelves next month could leave consumers and businesses “stranded without an alternative set of software.”


IBM bought Lotus Development Corp. a long time ago, including it’s flagship Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet product. Lotus 1-2-3 was essentially the first massively adopted business spreadsheet program. The Symphony “Smart Suite” included Lotus 1-2-3, a word processor, and other useful office apps. You may also be aware of the well known IBM productivity groupware, “Lotus Notes.” IBM is said to be releasing Symphony 2.0 next year, at the same time Microsoft would be releasing Office 2010. According to the article Symphony 2.0 will be based upon the most recent version of Sun Microsystems extremely popular free open source “Open Office” software suite which has held the #2 office software slot for some time, beaten only by Microsoft’s Office suite.

The article continues:

But for now IBM, which offers Symphony as a free download and the default productivity software in Notes/Domino 8, is adding a new set of drag-and-drop widgets that include integration with popular Microsoft backend software such as the SharePoint Server.

In addition, the ChartShare Widget provides screen sharing for up to 20 people with support for co-creation and editing of presentations. It also supports integration with Lotus Sametime Unyte Live’s meeting capability. The ChartShare Widget also gives presence information on every contributor to the presentation and a link to instant messaging.

The article concludes saying that Symphony also supports Microsoft Office 2007 file formats such as .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx. Symphony is available for free from the IBM Web site and will run on Mac, Windows, Ubuntu Linux, Red Hat Linux and Suse Linux. I could not find a normal 64-bit version for my Ubuntu, but there was a 32-bit version available. If it runs on Red Hat Linux it should also run on CentOS Linux, which is derived from Red Hat. Likewise Ubuntu is a version of Debian Linux.

My understanding is that for many years IBM has been spending 20% of their R&D budget on Linux development. Businesses for years have used Linux or Unix in their server rooms because of the well known advantages in security, reliability, and cost (both in almost no maintenance / down time required, and in proactive legal steps needed to avoid or defend against confrontations with Microsoft over licensing issues).

One of the largest impediments to business adoption of Linux as the desktop standard has been the preference for Microsoft Office, which was not released in a Linux version. With IBM releasing very good office software that has a huge history of use in very large corporations across many platforms from main frames to wireless and mobile devices, business could probably justify changing away from Microsoft Office to a well supported Office Suite that will not limit their options.

Note: this article is the writers personal opinion. It is based upon almost 40 years of experience in small computers and communications, but it is still an opinion.It is presented AS IS. All use is at your own risk.

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