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Lotus Symphony now reads Office 2007 documents

Move could remove a key worry for those considering dropping Microsoft Office

By Eric Lai
June 18, 2009 12:01 AM ET

Computerworld - IBM today announced the release of Lotus Symphony 1.3, an update to its year-old free productivity suite that for the first time lets users import files saved in Microsoft Office 2007's native Office Open XML (OOXML) document format.

The move brings Symphony up to par with OpenOffice.org, the open-source suite it is based on. OpenOffice.org 3.0, released last fall, lets users import OOXML documents.

But like Symphony, OpenOffice.org cannot save documents in OOXML, the controversial document format created, publicly released by Microsoft and made an international standard last year.

It also could ease a key worry for individuals and companies considering switching from Microsoft Office to free or inexpensive paid supported versions of Symphony.

Last year, IBM said it would provide unlimited remote support for up to 20,000 Symphony users for a flat fee of $25,000 a year.

By comparison, an enterprise agreement to license Office for the same number of users would cost $3.1 million a year, before any discounts.

Companies already paying for Lotus Notes 8 or Lotus Foundations, IBM's server software bundle for smaller firms, can get free support for Symphony, says IBM.

An IBM spokesman declined to say how many users it has for Symphony.

"We continue to see very strong interest and use [among firms using Notes or Foundations,]" he said in an e-mail. "In a recent survey of Notes customers, [approximately] 25 percent of them are either evaluating or deploying Lotus Symphony."

Symphony now limits users to saving files into Office 2003 or Office 2000's document formats. But the spokesman said saving in Office 2007 format was not off the table. "We will continue to monitor the demand for this function and based on that demand respond as needed," he said.

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