IBM Plans to Support OpenDocument in Notes

Beta release of software, code-named Hannover, set to ship early next year

IBM last week said the next version of Lotus Notes will add support for the OpenDocument format (ODF) standard, allowing users to create, edit and save word processing, spreadsheet and presentation documents without having to launch another application.

IBM demonstrated the new capabilities, to be shipped later this year in a beta release, last week at the Deutsche Notes User Group conference in Karlsruhe, Germany. The final release of the software, code-named Hannover, will ship in early 2007.

Vijay Sonty, CIO of Broward County Public Schools in Sunrise, Fla., said the ODF plans for Notes will be a boon to the 20,000 teachers, 275,000 K-12 students and 200,000 adult education students his department supports.

"This is IBM's answer to Microsoft," Sonty said. "We won't have to rely on Microsoft Office. We can now have all students and teachers accessing all documents and collaborate more easily. To be able to access disparate documents is a big plus for us."

In addition, Sonty said, the new Notes version "will enable student-to-teacher collaboration, and because it's Web-based, it really helps from a distance-learning standpoint,"

Ken Kolb, information systems manager at Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Arkansas Inc. in Little Rock, said the new Notes client will allow the 900 Notes users at his firm to use fewer software programs.

"It will be less confusing to users not to have to switch back and forth between applications," Kolb said. International Acceptance

Earlier this month, the International Standards Organization accepted the ODF as an international standard for saving and exchanging digital office documents, an important move for many IT organizations looking for alternatives to proprietary business applications.

"The game-changer that ODF represents is that it allows you to retrieve information from a document without opening it," said Anne MacFarland, an analyst at The Clipper Group Inc. in Wellesley, Mass.

The format also improves the process of exchanging information, letting "businesses be less clumsy in the ways they do business electronically," she said. "It's a first step in a new dexterity for business information."

Amy Wohl, an analyst at Wohl Associates Inc. in Narberth, Pa., said the updated Notes version will let users better share documents with others. Such interoperability is "where all this is coming from. I think it's a good thing," she said.

Wohl also said that users don't have to choose between Microsoft Office applications and support of ODF, despite Microsoft's current policy not to support the standard. Various third-party add-ins allow Microsoft Office to work with ODF, she said. "IBM is cutting into Microsoft's space only as far as Microsoft doesn't choose to adopt the standard," Wohl said.

Ken Bisconti, vice president of IBM Workplace products, said the company is adding ODF to Notes to offer more choice for customers. "There has been a lot of resentment" from users who feel forced to upgrade to business-productivity applications with new features they don't want, he said.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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