IBM Offers Free Office Tools

With Lotus Symphony, IBM beefs up its collaboration software portfolio.

IBM has released a suite of free software tools for creating and sharing documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

The company, based in Armonk, N.Y., announced Sept. 18 the tool set, known as Lotus Symphony, at the IBM Collaboration Summit at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City.

IBM officials said there are three core applications that make up the Lotus Symphony tools: Lotus Symphony Documents; Lotus Symphony Spreadsheets; and Lotus Symphony Presentations. The tools support Windows and Linux desktops and are designed to handle the majority of office productivity tasks that workers typically perform.

Lotus Symphony supports multiple file formats including Microsoft Office and ODF (Open Document Format), and can also output content in PDF format.

Users can download the Symphony tools here.

"IBM is committed to opening office desktop productivity applications just as we helped open enterprise computing with Linux," Steve Mills, senior vice president of IBM Software Group, said in a statement.


"The lifeblood of any organization is contained in thousands of documents. When those documents are based on proprietary software, only future versions of the same software will be able to access that intelligence. This dynamic forces companies to keep paying license and maintenance fees to the same vendor for a basic commodity. Now businesses can unlock their critical office information free of the costs and controls of any vendor."

Analysts said the moves made sense for IBM and its customers.

"I think IBM Lotus Symphony is likely to become a useful boost for the family of products, and its sensible for IBM to offer the suite outside of the Notes 8 client, to help its version of the applications build momentum," said Peter OKelly, an analyst with The Burton Group. OKelly added that he doubts Symphony will put any real dent in Microsoft Offices market share, but he said it may help to consolidate the many offerings available today.

IDC analyst Melissa Webster said the "Symphony strategy expands IBMs ODF support beyond Notes. Notes 8 included ODF editors [for WP, spreadsheets and presentations] and shipped this year. Whats significant about the Symphony announcement is IBM is making these tools generally available now, beyond the Notes/Domino user base, and I think IBMs entry into the office suite market with Symphony gives ODF a serious boost."

IBM officials said users can integrate IBM Lotus Symphony tools into their custom applications and then connect to data sources to create composite applications.


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Meanwhile, IBM also announced several other additions to its collaboration software portfolio, including hosted Lotus Notes. Lotus Notes is now available via enterprise-level application hosting, the company said. The new service offering provides Lotus Notes and Domino customers with a hosted and managed environment for their mail and collaborative applications, helping them improve the performance of their messaging environments while enhancing efficiency and productivity, IBM said.

IBM also announced Lotus Notes Traveler, a new client for Lotus Notes and Domino 8.0.1 that is scheduled to be available in the first quarter of 2008. The company also unveiled IBM Lotus Quickr Content Integrator, a new companion product to Lotus Quickr, the Lotus Quickr Content Integrator. The product will provide an intuitive, self-service environment for content sharing and collaboration, the company said. Quickr is IBMs team collaboration software that features wiki functionality.

IBM rolled out another Quickr-related offering: Lotus Quickr connectors for Lotus Notes 8 and Microsoft Outlook. Quickr connectors for Lotus Notes 8 and Microsoft Outlook will allow team members to save attachments into team workspaces, replace attachments with shared links and use the collaborative content services of Lotus Quickr software directly in Lotus Notes and Microsoft Outlook clients.

IBM also upgraded its electronic forms product in Lotus Forms 3.0, and announced a set of accelerators for IBM WebSphere Portal, including a collaboration accelerator and a content accelerator.


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