Do we need two open source office suites?

Do we need two open source office suites?

Summary: Do we really need two open source office suites?

SHARE:

IBM Symphony banner

Update: More on this story (and the strikeouts) here.

The good people at IBM are proud that their IBM Lotus Symphony has hit Version 1.0.

You can download it from here. It's free. There's free online support, and a host of fee-based services if you prefer. There's also a small business version of its collaboration product, dubbed IBM Lotus Foundations.

I should also add IBM has given a gloss of very nice marketing support to the launch. The graphics on the IBM Symphony are much more up-to-date than those on the OpenOffice.org site.

Yet my mind won't kill that nagging question. Do we really need two open source office suites?

If this were a standard business competition the obvious answer would be yes. Preferably more than two. In business, monopoly is a climax state which leads to laziness, high prices, and poor performance.

But is that true in open source? If you don't like a code base you can fork it. Any addition to the code base benefits every user. Open Office has gained enormous benefits from having many different sponsors.

I know from having lived this history that there are, in fact, the same number of office suites now as 20 years ago. The current Open Office is descended from Word Perfect. The great-grandparents of Symphony are Lotus 1-2-3 and the Ami word processor. Note: My bad. The current Open Office descends from Star Office, a product of Sun Microsystems, and not Word Perfect, which went to Corel.

Little of that code remains, but the rivalry does. Microsoft Office won the war, with the other two in a long-term fight for survival. Open Office saved WordPerfect. IBM inherited Symphony.

Isn't it time to talk merger, for the sake of both sponsors and the user base? Would open source be stronger with one office suite or two?

Topics: IBM, Collaboration, Open Source, Software

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

147 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • The nature of open source...

    It's in the nature of open source software, to come in many varieties. You could as well ask, if it's a problem that there are so many Linux distro's around.

    Of course it's not a problem: the code is open, do with it what you want. And let the end users pick the variety that they prefer.

    Greeting, Pjotr.
    pjotr123
    • The more, the merrier

      As long as the office suites all export to a standard format (ODF), I don't really care how many of them there are. Some people want light; some want feature complete. There's room for everyone in a world with good standards.
      daengbo
      • I am with you.

        I would amplify the necessity of import/export ODF
        Sagax-
    • Well, Actually, Pjotr - M$ Users Find Too Many Linux Flavors VERY Confusing

      so they think it makes Linux "inferior" to their beloved, breaks-whenever-they-try-changing-the-kernel Windoze...? ;)

      For me, I'm just fine w/more than one OSS office suite - even here, competition is a [i][b]good[/b][/i] thing, b/c it spurs innovation and usability.
      drprodny
  • That Made Me Scratch My Head, Too

    Methinks Dana needs to go back and double-check his sources. And, by the way, StarOffice's roots actually go back much further than that: Star Division's StarWriter was first developed back in the mid-80's for CP/M. The other applications were created over time, and, about ten years after StarWriter, were finally integrated as StarOffice. No involvement from Satellite Software, WordPerfect Corporation, Novell nor Corel anywhere in there, though, near as I can remember.
    Whyaylooh
    • Dana frequently gets his facts wrong and doesn't do research.

      This is just another example of Dana Blankenhorn getting his facts wrong. It happens all the time. Why is this man still called a journalist? He does no research or fact checking. It's sad because people might read his blogs and think they are accurate.
      mb103
      • RE: Dana Frequently ...

        This is the first time I've seen him get his fact egregiously wrong. But seems it was an honest mistake.

        You must be an MS zealot to make such a broad, sweeping statement about him.

        How about getting your facts straight.
        super_J
        • "You must be ..."

          ...an MS zealot to make such a broad, sweeping statement about him."

          Clever how how you made a broad, sweeping statement about someone else because they made a broad, sweeping statement.
          bmerc
          • LOL - same thing came to my mind immediately

            nt
            ItsTheBottomLine
        • re:super_j and what do you call

          "You must be an MS zealot..." statement. Guess that makes you one too.
          ItsTheBottomLine
      • Mr. Perfect, I presume?

        Never made a mistake, have you not? Never told a lie?

        If your answer is NO to either question, you should know what that makes you. I certainly do. A bigot is bad enough, but that other thing is a bigtime no-no.
        Ole Man
        • Here we go again.

          If Ed Bott or George Ou get any facts wrong, you attack like a vulture thinking he's found a free meal. Off you go, drooling at the prospect of telling them how their association with evil has affected their ability to think....like you. Perfect and right and honest. pfft <br><br>
          That makes you a hypocrite and much worse, so if you are going to judge others and their right to call a blogger on mistakes you need a disclaimer.<br><br>
          <Ole Man disclaimer><br>"What I'm about to say, is completely and utterly hypocritical. I'm talk out of both sides of my mouth and have double standards due to my total and complete lack of objectivity. My posts are worthess, just like the one I'm about to make. therefore you can kindly ignore it but I just can't resist doing it. It's like a fix for me. I crave it. I love to show how verbally attack others and be a drag on life itself" <br>
          </Ole Man's disclaimer>
          xuniL_z
          • First things first

            Been waiting on YOUR disclaimer FAR too long. Write your own before attempting to put your foul words in my mouth.

            Get your priorities in order if you don't want to continue being the hind end.
            Ole Man
          • It's too late.

            You've already taken the job.
            xuniL_z
          • What is really needed is a ZDNet disclaimer

            <NOTICE: ZDNet is a sensationalist blogging platform with no journalistic standards and any topic mentioned will always be turned into a stupid flame war by morons who keep posting the same stupid insults over and over, despite the fact that nobody's impressed.>
            bmerc
          • @bmerc

            I really am not looking for your approval, whatsoever. <br><br>
            Ole Man has little other to do, so I like to feed him. I don't want to see him waste away, which would happen if nobody took his troll bait.
            <br>
            For all his faults, he's ok.
            <br>
            xuniL_z
          • Also.

            Would you expect to find thoughtful, intelligent conversation being ignited by these sensationalist blogs? <br><br>
            Dana is so obviously pro OSS, anti-ms that some of his blogs look more like a talkback response from an OSS zealot. <br><br>
            What are you doing here anyway, since the it's just a sensationalist blogging platform to begin with? Nothing better to do? :)
            xuniL_z
          • A little rationality?

            On top of all your senseless blather?

            Yahhhh! That'll make everything OK. That'll make you look good! (in a pig's eye)
            Ole Man
  • My bad...

    I'd heard they were merged in the Novell days...I'll make the change. And thanks to all who wrote in on it.
    DanaBlankenhorn
    • Your history

      ... but were you paying attention?
      Reged