September 18, 2007 11:17 AM PDT

Rivals make run at Microsoft Office

Rivals make run at Microsoft Office
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IBM takes on Microsoft Office again with Lotus Symphony


September 18, 2007
After years of watching Microsoft rake in billions of dollars from its desktop software franchise, its competitors are pouncing.

IBM on Tuesday announced the release of Lotus Symphony, a suite of free desktop applications based on the OpenOffice.org open-source product.

The computing giant, which has been challenging Microsoft's desktop dominance for years, said that Lotus Symphony is a standards-based alternative to Microsoft's proprietary Office.

Separately, on Monday afternoon, Yahoo said that it paid $350 million to acquire Zimbra, a start-up that developed a Web-based e-mail and collaboration package comparable with Microsoft Exchange and Outlook.

Meanwhile, Google on Monday introduced Google Presentations, an online version of Microsoft's PowerPoint presentation application that complements Google's Web-hosted document editor and spreadsheet.

The flurry of investment in productivity software points to technology and business changes in the IT industry that are making Microsoft's cash cow vulnerable to alternatives, particularly among small businesses and consumers.

But don't expect Microsoft coffers to start draining tomorrow. Analysts expect Microsoft to retain the great majority of its Office customers as it adjusts its product development to the Web and open source, even as competitors try to siphon off its Office revenue.

"I think there's some blood in the water between Microsoft not getting its Open XML (Office document formats) fast-track standards approval and the European Commission ruling," said Michael Silver, an analyst at Gartner, referring to two recent Microsoft setbacks.

Microsoft failed to get its Office Open XML formats certified as ISO standards through its accelerated process earlier this month. On Monday, the European Commission ruled in favor of regulators in an antitrust case that could change how Microsoft does business in Europe.

Microsoft has shown some signs of reacting to the full-court press it's seeing from competitors.

Last week, it made a version of its Office suite available to students for $60. It is also developing Office Live, a set of online services that complements Office and is aimed at small businesses.

A Microsoft spokesman on Tuesday said that Office meets its customers' needs because the company continues to invest in it.

"Competition is good for the industry and good for customers. That said, Microsoft Office continues to be the overwhelming choice for a broad range of organizations and individuals," said Jacob Jaffe, director of Office at Microsoft. "Microsoft Office has changed as people's work has changed, and the alternatives for the most part have aimed to meet the needs of the past."

Low-risk volley
IBM on Tuesday offered up beta versions of the Lotus Symphony applications--a document editor, spreadsheet and presentation program--to end users and business customers for free download.

The applications run on Windows and Linux, and a Mac version is planned.

IBM executives said that the company's backing of OpenOffice-based software and the open-source project is similar to its decision in the 1990s to push Linux into businesses.

For support, the company is pointing its customers to online forums on its Web site.

But company observers expect IBM to start to make paid support services available to large customers.

"If (Lotus Symphony) destabilizes Microsoft's Office business, that's a huge win and the potential risk for IBM is essentially nil."
--Stephen O'Grady, analyst, RedMonk

For IBM, which makes about half of its revenue from professional services, pushing into desktop software with Lotus Symphony is a low-risk way to try to upset the balance of power using standards as a lever, said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at RedMonk.

"If (Lotus Symphony) destabilizes Microsoft's Office business, that's a huge win and the potential risk for IBM is essentially nil because it's not a business where they are competitive anyhow. And it won't cannibalize any of its own products," O'Grady said.

Realistically, Lotus Symphony applications don't have the same advanced features found in Microsoft Office.

IBM said the programs are designed for ease of use and to be easily integrated with other applications. In addition, IBM made pains to point out that the programs support OpenDocument Format, or ODF, a standard document format. They also will work with Microsoft Office documents and Adobe Systems' PDF.

Stripped-down productivity applications could have an appeal in some corporate computing situations, such as small businesses or companies that don't want to pay a full Office license for employees who rarely use the suite, some analysts said.

See more CNET content tagged:
Lotus, Microsoft Office, IBM Corp., desktop software, open source

51 comments

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Office Competition extends also to Project
This is great news for the industry. Microsoft Office includes primarily, Word, Excel, Powerpoint an Project. Sun, Novell, IBM, Google and soon Yahoo are offering alternatives that are full featured and open existing native files. I am using Projity's solutions that complements each of these suites with a complete replacement (both SaaS and open source desktop) of Microsoft Project. If you want to migrate from Office you can go cross platform and open existing files with these suites. The addition of Projity in each of these completes a sweet suite... all free and cross platform. Look out Microsoft
Posted by linuxbeatsMS (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Amen brother
God knows Microsoft could use some competition. Office has
become stale. And don't forget Apple's iWork and especially
Numbers, a refreshing change to Excel.
Posted by KonradK (65 comments )
Link Flag
SUCCESS WOULD BE LIMITED UNLESS...
Open Office is already there for quite a while and it is capable of producing comparably complex documents as in MS Office. The main issue is whether our govt. bodies embrace it. The courts, city govt., federal agencies, etc... currently just accepts Microsoft docs format for all purposes. They spent billions on Office licensing instead of $0 on openoffice. Yet they could not accept the widely open document format whereas openoffice accepts microsoft docs format.

A tragedy I guess where our govt. love to spend more of our money than saving and putting them to good use.

Unless our governing bodies embrace the open software we are still doom to paying for office.

Look at the University?... Our so-call learning institution... Are they using Office or Open Office? They are not learning compare to our overseas counterpart.

It is not the software availability.. it who is controlling the minds. The perception that MS Office is the best needs to be corrected. The inability of our teachers to learn and improve needs to be reassessed.
Posted by joshooi (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
free...
Nothing is free. Office 2007 is quite a product - I hate to say it but Microsoft really is getting it right when it comes to user productivity and enhancements to the way users work. Microsoft spends over $6 Billion in R&D - light years ahead of any thing that's happening in the open source community - of course open source copies a lot of the functionality of what's happening in Office. While Microsoft continues to invent and create new technology in its cash cow the open source community copies their work. Getting into Microsoft pocket is going to be a tough battle - they have created a linking point between all their products which no open source solution can really say. Rights Management, managed Collaboration solutions, IP Phone, Presences and Instant Messaging - they are building out a solution that will make any one who doesn't have a all up collaboration strategy extremely hard to follow. Yes, open source can partner together but honestly, with no money in open source (with the exception of services) I don't see IBM/Google/Yahoo really cutting in anytime soon.
Posted by jessiethe3rd (1140 comments )
Link Flag
Honestly...
Have you used Office 2007? Stale? Hardly. They've got their game together when it comes to the enterprise. SharePoint, Office Live Communicator, Office Enterprise, Infopath for forms automation - they are doing things that Apple could never do... besides, probably the number one or number two top selling application on a Mac... *drum-roll* Office.
Posted by jessiethe3rd (1140 comments )
Reply Link Flag
...astroturfing.
[i]"Have you used Office 2007? Stale?"[/i]

Yep. Also slow, buggy, and an all-around PITA to support.

Behind that pretty little ribbon is basically the same rehashed Office from 2003, with no compelling new stuff and a new GUI splashed on top of it.

As for Macs, NeoOffice is far easier to use and nowhere near as ugly on the resources. Oh, and it doesn't cost $400 US. ;)

/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Link Flag
NUMBER OF USER THAT NEED COLLABORATION
Majority of us are not power users. Every law office, government offices especially, all offices that I supported in small business and in large corporation, does not use all the collaboration features. In fact only about 10% of users uses all the collaboration and that is giving some doubt. I believe the figures is much less. Even simple excel work links are not use. Frankly alot of function in Word are also not known to alot of users (80% conservatively).

You are talking about power users. Most of use pay $200 at least for a simple type writer. I am not saying that the program is not useful.. It is but only to the only few. WHY DOES THE REST WHO DO NOT NEED ALL THOSE COLLABORATION NEED TO SUFFER?

My point is the Govt. is determining what we have to use. Unless the Govt. change and open itself to all document format there is no free choice. Open document format is already an international standard but Microsoft refuse to have it in their software instead they tried to sell their proprietary format as an international standard.

Point is I am not saying that their software is not good ... I am saying that all these other software have no chance of wide usage unless the GOVT, FEDS, ALL GOVERNING BODY are open to it.

These open source software are now widely used overseas. In fact some government already make them a standard. Billions of dollars safe in licensing fees could be better use.

I my consultation business I have save businesses with 30 or more users in licensing fees by limiting Office installation. I identify the power users and basically using a survey find out whether MS Office or OpenOffice need to be installed in each computer. Majority of the company could just work with OpenOffice.

I have seen enough waste in the Government from the city to the FEDS especially in the field of IT.
Posted by joshooi (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Re: collaboration
After supporting hundreds of users for over a decade, I can tell you that the closest most of them come to using collaboration software is when they link to someone else's spreadsheet that resides on a network share.

And we have had MS Office users linking to OpenOffice.org documents, and vice versa, for years.

The only limitation we've faced is the lack of support for ODF from Microsoft.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Link Flag
Hint from a power Excel user
I've seen this topic discussed on many BB's over many, many years. How to break the MS desktop hegemony? Well, without writing a tome... Um, until/unless someone can make a spreadsheet that integrates with backend databases better than Excel you can forget even denting MS's position. This alternate spreadsheet has to be cooler and easier to work with external data than Excel. Excel is the #1 business intellegence client in the world hands down. The BI vendors dream about having a >0% market share but they're wrong. And most BI vendors have given up trying to deeply integrate with Excel. Why? Because MS is a lousy partner that sabotages these efforts in order to make you use SQL/Server and Analysis Services. Trust me, if Oracle, IBM, SAS, Cognos, MySQL, etc. got together and created a better, faster, more flexible, programatically addressable, open, and intuitive interface to allow pivoting/manipulation of backend data from within the spreadsheet program... Well, all of a sudden the Excel power users would insist on using it. And the dominoes would fall from there. I've got the budget to do it right now but where's the product?
Posted by scdecade (329 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well...
[i]"Trust me, if Oracle, IBM, SAS, Cognos, MySQL, etc. got
together and created a better, faster, more flexible,
programatically addressable, open, and intuitive interface to
allow pivoting/manipulation of backend data from within the
spreadsheet program... Well, all of a sudden the Excel power
users would insist on using it."[/i]

I suspect that this is part of what IBM may be up to... ;)

/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Link Flag
HOW TO BEAT MICROSOFT
Microsoft have become very powerful with their Office aplications. But this is what Google, IBM, Yahoo, and other have to do to beat Office: Use the "ipod wheel theory." This means, revolution the market. remember when apple created the ipod? They made it easy to use. You dont need any user manual to use an ipod.

That is what Google or IBM should do. Create an excel an access like aplication where you dont have to use commands but clicks. That is the hardest thing about access and excel, they ask you to introduce commands. We, users, just need the cliks. That is like the calculators, you dont put formula, you just press bottons.

When we go to college, we know how hard Access and Excel may be. Google, please create a clik by clik version of something like Access or Excel.
Posted by DHeraSa (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Excel Pretty Solid
This is the hard one.

Anything is better than Word.

PowerPoint is almost a parody of itself.

Excel has some very useful features that are powerful if you want to bother buying and reading a manual.

At one point, MSFT announced Excel would be enterprise-class with a potential of 3 million records. A quant, sold-out SPSS user, told me MSFT pulled back on that.

An outfit that can make pivot-tables an intuitive push-button affair and give users massive database size capacity would have a shot at the power users but for the workaday PC users, Excel is actually useful. Amazing that MSFT developed it.
Posted by Sumatra-Bosch (526 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Outlook has run in a browser for nearly 7 years...
so what's the big deal about Zimbra or what does it offer MS Outlook Web Access and Exchange doesn't??
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Webmail and Webapps have existed much longer.
[i]"so what's the big deal about Zimbra or what does it offer MS
Outlook Web Access and Exchange doesn't??"[/i]

* Unlike Outlook, they're not great big raging security risks.

* They don't require a monstrosity of a computer just to operate
as a desktop (e.g. Vista's requirements) or on the server (see
also the bloatastic mess that is Exchange).

* They don't require CALs and other unnecessary costs.

* Unlike OWA, their web pages actually work well with a typical
user's workflow, and are designed to be useful and productive.

* Unlike OWA, they don't require a monstrous and bloated
security hole (see also "IIS") as a webserver.

Shall I continue?

/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Link Flag
Oracle OBIEE
We recently signed a contract with Oracle and will be using their OBIEE -oracle business intelligence yadda yadda software.

I think the sharks are circling.
Posted by dcsonka (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is a risky business move
they are giving it away for free, Lotus Symphony, but they are forcing people to register at IBM an account to download it. Because of that it will backfire on them and people will download OpenOffice.Org instead because it is free, it is what Symphony is based on, and it does not require anyone to register an account with a megacorporation in order to download it.

Plus MS-Works and MS-Office is bundled with just about every PC sold, so it is practically free anyway.

I am downloading Lotus Symphony for Windows and Linux, but even though I have high speed broadband it is very slow. The download manager IBM uses crashed my web browser and I tried Firefox 2.0.0.7 and IE 7.0 but I was forced to do the HTTP download. No option for BitTorrent downloads either. IBM has such poor quality control these days that even their web technology is messed up. Since it is based on Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino, you know that IBM messed them up after buying out Lotus. IBM tech support is horrible as well.

Lotus Symphony may be a dog for IBM, I think they should just make some of the Lotus source code and file formats available to improve OpenOffice.Org and not even bother with Lotus Symphony.
Posted by Fake Donald Trump (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why so?
"Lotus Symphony may be a dog for IBM, I think they should just make some of the Lotus source code and file formats available to improve OpenOffice.Org and not even bother with Lotus Symphony." When according to this observation which states: "Re: Concerning the issues with 1-2-3 that are talked about in the documentation you gave me, most of the issues are related to converting files between older and newer versions of product and converting documents between Lotus and Microsoft. Anytime a file is saved backwards or saved with an older file format than the format the file was created under, such as saving a 1-2-3 , 97 file for Windows 95 into a WK1 format for DOS, then naturally we are expected to loose certain features due to technology and features that are present now that were not present 8 - 10 years ago. Similarly, if we try to convert a file from Lotus into Excel or Excel into Lotus, due to differences in the products not every feature will be converted perfectly with the file filters that are available. Both Lotus and Microsoft create similar spreadsheet programs; however, there are several differences in both programs and these differences will remain to distinguish the products apart. We do try to design conversion filters that will allow as much of the file formats as possible to be exchanged and converted without disrupting the actual file design and format.

In one of your letters you made mention of the @IRR and @ERR functions in the 1-2-3 product. By design the @IRR (notably "absent" in Open Office) will calculate the Internal Rate of Return; where the @ERR is used in conjunction with other formulas, posted was an "ERR" showing an error was received in the calculations. As far as I can see in the program I cannot find an @ERR function that will allow us to calculate an Economic Rate of Return" Waiting around for years can be a very heavy load to carry especially when yet another holoday season is around the corner and the housing market is in such turmoil. This move by IBM should have made 10 years ago (with Lotus Symphony running on OS/2 also). Where was "OpenOffice.Org" at that time!
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
Link Flag
How The "Punches" Are Landing!
From Ringside:

First: One ISO Right Cross To The Head.

Second: One EU Court of First Instance Left Upper-Cut To The Jaw.

and

Third: One IBM Jab To The Mid-Section

One awaits to see how much of Redmond's blood has really been spilled before Redmond goes to the next "Round" with the ISO! Are there any bets!
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The Question is:
... (now that there appears to be some external refereeing from this side of the Atlantic - see the below attached link) Is the Redmond Giant so stunned that it has forgotten how to "block" the punches, "duck", "rest on the ropes" or "lock-up" (tie-up) its opponents.

Now, the talk of United States "Referees" from:

"EC's Kroes slams DOJ reaction to Microsoft ruling"

"The DOJ statement added: "In the United States, antitrust laws are enforced to protect consumers by protecting competition, not competitors". Barring "demonstrable consumer harm, all companies, including dominant firms, are encouraged to compete vigorously."

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.networkworld.com/news/2007/091907-ec-microsoft-antitrust-ruling.html?netht=091907dailynews2&#38;&#38;nladname=091907dailynews" target="_newWindow">http://www.networkworld.com/news/2007/091907-ec-microsoft-antitrust-ruling.html?netht=091907dailynews2&#38;&#38;nladname=091907dailynews</a>

Stay tuned folks as these rounds of battles for its life of the Redmond Giant is not going to be over until the fat lady sings. Commander_Spock and Crew just can't wait to see the counter-punches from the Redmond Giant.
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
Link Flag
Just a couple of things
Downloads for IBM have been not problem for me including Notes Beta that includes Symphony and hence almost 2x the file size of Symphony alone. You may be hitting the bandwidth wall as so may are downloading it. I've run into this before with many companies that release programs or even operating systems. I've had problems with MS update downloads as well.

As for IBM and OpenOffice, read the news release and see what IBM is doing and contributing. They are donating, money, programmers and some of the code they developed for Symphony that was not in OpenOffice. The consensus seems to be that OpenOffice will get better even faster. If there is a downside, it may be to OxygenFree Office that is the offshoot of OpenOffice modded to be more business focused than the generic OpenOffice.

I do not thing it is OpenOffice vs Symphony vs Google vs StarOffice (Sun's version) but all of them are more common than different and collaborating to reach somewhat different markets. If all of the 128,000,000 Notes users upgrade to Notes 8 and phased out or required odf formats it will hurt MS.

I now do not accept MS format from my clients in the office. I started this some time ago and back then required and accepted only rtf and 1-2-3 file formats. When I switched to odf, I found little resistance with my clients. Some updated by simply downloading OpenOffice and use it for a file converter but more and more are electing to use it. I client has converted all of its office to it, in excess of 80 persons. It turned out more than 2/3rds had it at home either on their person computers or their kids so they were used to it.
Posted by BrianLevy (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Any news on the IBM free office suite?
Saw a post about this yesterday but could not find it at IBM.com????
Posted by Dango517 (199 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"IBM Lotus Symphony Installation Guide"
With Compliments.

1. "Installing IBM Lotus Symphony on Windows XP and Windows Vista"

2. "Installing IBM Lotus Symphony on Linux SLED 10 and RHEL5"

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://symphony.lotus.com/software/lotus/symphony/installGuide.jspa" target="_newWindow">http://symphony.lotus.com/software/lotus/symphony/installGuide.jspa</a>

Good Luck.
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
Link Flag
Parent Up
Exactly like parent said. An market the god damn software already. You can't expect people to automatically find this software. I try explaining OpenOffice.org to some people and they think its a website they have to be on. I mean how stupid can these people get, change the name to something that doesn't apply to being on the internet to use it. With that note, Google needs to make an offline version of there productivity apps. Make a small imprint and very simple, features can come after in my book, just the essentials.
Posted by chrisfrary (115 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Watch Out Cisco, HP, Dell etc. Geekware is here
Yeah... and companies are going to stop buying Cisco network equipment because Netgear is so much cheaper. Watch out Cisco. HP better plan an exit for it's printer business because large corporations everywhere are going digital! The end is near for HP's cash cow. Dell better rethink its strategy too because corporations are going to realize what consumers have known for a long time - generic clones like eMachines are cheaper. In fact, now everybody is listening to the nerdy IT guy who runs Linux on his homebuilt -- because all along he's had all the strategies to save tons of money.
Posted by b.k.m (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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