IBM Corp. has reported 100,000 downloads in one week of the beta version of Lotus Symphony, its free office suite, which is seen as a potential competitor to Microsoft Corp’s Office suite.
Symphony is based on the open source OpenOffice.org and Eclipse framework, and promotes the ODF for XML (Open Document Format), which is an XML standard approved by the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) in Geneva. Microsoft’s Office suite supports Open XML, which failed to get fast-track approval as an ISO standard earlier this month.
Research firm Gartner Inc. however said in a research note that the Symphony release is not as significant as it may seem. Symphony is an IBM distribution of word processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications from the OpenOffice.org suite of productivity applications, much like the StarOffice suite available from Sun Microsystems Inc., and also distributed by Google, it pointed out.
As pointed out in a posting in this blog on September 17, despite IBM’s marketing muscle and a large customer base, the move by IBM may not really cut into Microsoft’s business. OpenOffice has been around free for many years, but its adoption has not been dramatic so far, and comes mainly from open-source die-hards.
Organizations have not widely implemented OpenOffice because their versions of Microsoft Office are still supported (Microsoft supports office versions for 10 years). Also, compatibility is not perfect, requiring some users to run Microsoft Office, Gartner said.
Competition is also coming to IBM and Microsoft from online hosted office applications from companies like Google Inc. Google has hinted at offering both online and offline versions of its software.