Lotus Symphony--Hard to See Why It Will Succeed
At Lotusphere 2009, Lotus spent quite a lot of the Day 1 Keynote talking about Symphony, its free, open source, "Eclipse," and OpenOffice.org-based, alternative to Microsoft Office. The current release of Symphony (1.2) is based on a back-level OpenOffice.org code base. At Lotusphere, Lotus announced plans for three new releases of Symphony:
- Symphony 1.3 in Q2 2009
- Symphony 2.0 in Q1 2010
- Symphony 2.x in H2 2010
Symphony 1.3 will continue to be based on the back-level OpenOffice.org code base employed by other Symphony 1.x releases. It will add support for LotusScript, some level of Microsoft Office 2007 interoperability, Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) publication, and enhanced internal functionality (mail/merge, envelope printing, pivot tables - renamed pilot data tables, etc.).
Symphony 2.x will finally move to the current OpenOffice.org 3.x code base, and in so doing pick up support for version 1.2 of ODF and other enhancements.
Lotus says there have been 3+ million Symphony downloads so far.
There are reasonable arguments that Symphony will do well:
- The recession will stimulate interest in cost savings
- Microsoft competitors such as Google increasingly validate the notion of using free or almost-free technology
However, we doubt Symphony will suck oxygen out of Microsoft's Office market.
On the Windows platform, we do not expect Microsoft to lose much (if any) market share. On the Macintosh OSX platform, Apple has just announced a new, and critically much acclaimed, version of iWorks. This may well cut into Microsoft Office's market share on this platform. On the Linux platform, it is not clear why end users would select Symphony in preference to OpenOffice.
In another posting, Lack of Vision at Lotusphere, we note that Lotus' vision seems to consist of limp tactical alternatives to Microsoft's laser-sharp strategic vision. We cannot help but feel that this is the case with Symphony. ... David Ferris and Nick Shelness