It's like a deja vu all over again, a battle of two major forces played over and over. Once again IBM is making an attempt to take down Microsoft, this time the lucrative Office franchise. Reusing an old IBM/Lotus name, Lotus Symphony is likely to meet the same fate as the ill-fated OS/2 and Lotus SmartSuite, the operating system IBM and productivity suite created in the 1990's to topple Windows.
This time IBM is going the open source route, with a freely downloadable version of OpenOffice.org, joining Google in promoting the client-based productivity suite, which came out of Sun. IBM is even dedicating engineers to working on the OpenOffice project.
However, IBM isn't offering a freely downloadable communication suite, with email, calendar, instant messaging and other collaboration features as part of its symphony--at least not yet.
IBM thinks that it can do for OpenOffice what it did for Linux, in terms of sales, service and support efforts. It can also make money on the freely downloadable software selling consulting and support contracts to large corporations.
IBM, Sun, Google and other also want to make OpenDocument Format (ODF) that Symphony uses a standard document format, versus Microsoft's Office Open XML, which the International Organization for Standardization in Europe rejected as a standard.
After a decade, OpenOffice is a blip on Microsoft's screen. It could take another decade for IBM to make inroads with Symphony, especially given it doesn't have a cloud-based version yet. Nor is Microsoft standing still, and Google also seems to be interested in this space, with online collaboration at its core. Even Yahoo has raised its hand with its aquisition of Zimbra, and Zoho and ThinkFree will eventually get scooped up by a bigger player.
Even Larry Dignan is jumping into the fray:
Without further ado, I introduce DigOffice, a new paradigm in productivity software. It’ll be SAASy, on-demand, comply with all those document formats everyone gripes about. You’ll dig DigOffice so much that you’ll drop Microsoft Office, fire your CIO for being so stupid and embrace an open source, browser-centric productivity reality. Of course, DigOffice will have so much AJAX that you can clean your kitchen sink. And it’ll all work offline.