In a brief note, Ed Brill, an IBM product line manager, announced that IBM has likely seen its last release of Symphony, its OpenOffice fork. Later, in the blog's discussion thread, Eric Otchet, Symphony's product manager, seemingly confirmed that this was the end of the road for Symphony when he wrote about Apache OpenOffice the IBM Edition as if that would be IBM's successor to Symphony.
In his blog posting, Brill wrote:
Lotus Symphony 3.0.1 is our latest release. There are many enhancements in this release including support for 1 million rows in spreadsheets, bubble charts and a new design for the home page.
This will also likely be the last release of IBM's own fork of the OpenOffice codebase. Our energy from here is going into the Apache OpenOffice project, and we expect to distribute an "IBM edition" of Apache OpenOffice in the future. We have contributed the Lotus Symphony code into the OpenOffice project, along with human resource across development/product management/marketing organizations. I'm excited by what I see happening at Apache, but for now, the new release of Symphony keeps the current project updated for existing and potential customers.
What does that mean for existing Symphony developers and users? Otchet explained:
Symphony 3.0.1 add-on installer for Notes is available today in FixCentral. This will update the version of Symphony embedded in the Notes client.
The new Apache OpenOffice code will NOT be based on Eclipse. We are donating the Symphony code to the Apache project. The sidebar in Symphony is C++ code today.
Future releases of Symphony 3.0.1 ( fixpacks) will be still be based on Eclipse/Expeditor. Symphony 3.0.1 will be included in Notes 8.5.4 ( in the box) with the exception of the Mac client. Mac will be standalone only due to some Cocoa/Carbon issues.
We will continue to offer support for our Notes customers on maintenance if they want to use the Apache OpenOffice the IBM Edition when it is available instead of or in addition to Symphony. We will not have the ability to embed the Apache OpenOffice the IBM Edition into the Notes client.
We are looking at how to extend our Symphony LotusScript support to the Apache OpenOffice code in the future.
Symphony 3.0.1 will continue to be supported for the lifecycle of the Notes 8.5.x clients. This will be through fixpacks and maintenance releases as needed.
This move can't come as too much of a surprise. In July 2011, IBM started donating its Symphony code to the Apache Foundation, which is now overseeing the remains of the OpenOffice project. I say “remains” because most of the development energy in the OpenOffice family has been going to the LibreOffice fork. Many users and Linux distributors, such as Ubuntu, have replaced OpenOffice with LibreOffice.
What does this mean for users? If you're a Symphony user, I see little reason to worry. Call it Symphony or call it Apache OpenOffice the IBM Edition, you'll still have IBM office suite support. For other suite users, I see this as just one more bit of proof that LibreOffice, not OpenOffice, represents the future of open-source office suites.