IBM has updated Lotus Symphony with the ability to import Office 2007 documents, a feature it hopes could convince large organisations to drop Microsoft's suite altogether.
Symphony 1.3, released on Thursday, now enables imports of documents using Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML) format. However, the free-of-charge office suite does not yet let users save documents in OOXML.
OOXML is used natively in Office 2007 and was approved as a standard last year. Microsoft is currently backing OOXML-related initiatives such as the development of testing tools to help third parties implement the standard in their software.
Symphony 1.3 is based on OpenOffice 3, released last October, which can also import OOXML-based documents.
IBM offers Symphony with Lotus Notes. It provides free support for Symphony to those already paying for support for Lotus Notes 8 or Lotus Foundations, which is a server software bundle for small and medium-sized companies. Customers can also get unlimited remote support for up to 20,000 Symphony users for a flat fee of $25,000 (£15,000) per year.
IBM said it believes these relatively low rates, combined with the access to OOXML-based documents, could win over customers looking to eliminate Microsoft Office licence fees.
"Now it will be much harder to justify paying Office licensing fees when you can preserve and access your Office documents for free using Lotus Symphony," said Lotus vice president Kevin Cavanaugh, in a statement.
Other new features in Symphony 1.3 include improvements to the data analysis features of DataPilot Table, better mail merge and envelope printing and animations for presentations, IBM said.