IBM Lotus had several presentations on Lotus Symphony this year. Symphony is an office productivity suite that natively supports ODF-based word processing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Other characteristics are:
- Free license
- Supports 28 languages
- Runs on Windows (XP, Vista), Linux (Redhat, Suse, Ubuntu), and Mac OS X
- Based on Lotus Expeditor
- Three support options: Symphony Embedded Version (free: included with the purchase of other products such as Notes 8, Foundations, and iNotes); Standalone Symphony Free Support (free: online support via forums); Symphony Standalone Fee-Based Support (priced for up to 20,000 users, limited to 20 technical contacts)
At the moment, Symphony acts as a wannabe to Microsoft Office, with a few things missing, such as VB Macros (that feature is coming). If Symphony were just that, it wouldn't be that interesting--true, it could save you licensing fees compared to Office, but that would be all it does: it would improve the bottom line but not offer increased productivity for information workers.
However, IBM Lotus is becoming a bit more outspoken about their future plans. On slide 5 of the IBM Lotus Symphony Overview (presentation ID506), the company portrayed a pyramid with five tiers, with an arrow pointing up the pyramid stating, "Over time, investment will shift." From bottom to top the tiers are:
- Meet needs of most users: Usability, stability, platform support
- Adoption capability: Interoperability, compatibility, deployability
- Linked values: Cross integration with Lotus portfolio, first choice for office tools of Lotus users
- Solution enablement: Programmability for ISVs, extensible and open
- Beyond Office: Breakthrough document manipulation experience
The interesting one is number five: Beyond Office is the idea that Symphony should become part of an ecosystem that makes composite documents, similar to what the DITA standard allows for technical documentation. And guess what--IBM is the company that pioneered DITA. So given the company's DITA heritage and IBM Lotus' declared strategic plan, over the next several years Symphony should become a much more capable, interesting, and productivity enhancing product.