IBM's Symphony hitting the wrong notes, say reviewers

Suite not kind to bloggers' computers; bloggers return the favor

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Here's a sampling of comments from other bloggers weighing in on Symphony:

  • Domino in Australia: "If you are going to launch a product with the "enterprise-grade" label, get the product to an enterprise-usable state that is acceptable for actual enterprises. Duh!"
  • CyberTech Rambler: "Compared to OpenOffice.org, the UI is more appealing."
  • Steve Tsuida at Kryos: "A great idea built on a great engine, so why tolerate such an underwhelming first impression?"
  • Braden S Douglass at A Trapped Teckno tNerdL "Viva la free!"

Symphony, for now, only comes in a U.S. English version and runs only on Windows and Linux. In contrast, OpenOffice is available in 100 languages and has versions for Mac OS X, BSD, Solaris and Irix.

While IBM has not laid out an exact product road map, OpenOffice.org says that new features in Version 3.0 of its offering will include the ability to blog or write wiki entries directly within OpenOffice and a personal information manager (PIM) based on the open-source Thunderbird application, to which Sun is a leading contributor.

The forthcoming OpenOffice update is also expected to include the ability to open Microsoft Office Open XML documents created by Office 2007, and it's expected to come in a native Mac OS X version.

Battling for hearts, minds and (maybe) control

IBM said two weeks ago that it will join OpenOffice.org and devote 35 full-time programmers to working on that project.

The company has also expressed its dissatisfaction with how OpenOffice.org is being run. It has said that it intends to take its "rightful leadership position" in the organization, which remains dominated by Sun, which created OpenOffice in 2000.

But this may be complicated by IBM's plans to aim Symphony at enterprise users, especially the 100 million that use Lotus Notes today. That will pit Symphony against both Microsoft Office and Sun's StarOffice, which has not made much progress against Microsoft's suite of applications.

Symphony's free price also makes it a direct alternative to OpenOffice, which has coincidentally been downloaded 100 million times.

McCreesh, however, said that reports of squabbling between IBM and other OpenOffice.org community members against Sun are overblown. At its developer conference last week, "there was a high degree of consensus," McCreesh wrote in an e-mail. "Here in Barcelona, it doesn't feel like a community at war with itself."

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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