One day after the Microsoft bashing from the European Commission comes the inevitable first skirmishes of the potential pending wars. IBM is announcing IBM Lotus Symphony, at an event today in New York. The programs which will compete with Microsoft’s Office suite, Word, Excel and PowerPoint and will be available as free downloads from the I.B.M. Web site.
IBM will also be open-source software developed in a consortium called OpenOfiice.org whose free office software has long been available but has not yet made much progress against Microsoft’s Office. However IBM are banking of the power of their brand and backing to make the difference. IBM is joining forces with the likes of Google who already offer an alternative open-source desktop productivity programs as part of its Google Pack. Google also supports the same document formats in its online word processor and spreadsheet service.
The critical element will be the document format used, called the OpenDocument Format. It makes digital information independent of the program, like a word processor or spreadsheet and is based on XML. Microsoft has its own document format, called Office Open XML and unlike the OpenDocument Format, backed by I.B.M., Google, Sun and others, they failed to get it approved by the standards organization.
So it’s back to those days when IT department spent resource evaluating Office against Lotus and Wordperfect. But free and XML approved standard are powerful arguments.