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

One Comment

  1. John Davis
    Posted January 21, 2009 at 6:23 AM | Permalink

    We have been moving to OpenOffice for our mixed Mac/Windows environment, the reason is that it is free, and that it provides a consistent look and feel across platforms which makes supporting the application much easier than dealing with two separate office platforms (e.g. MS Office & iWork).

    As we’re a Notes shop, we’re also looking at Symphony, we’re just starting to test 1.2, our assumption is that it won’t be as good as OO 3x, but that remains to be seen. The lack of Office 2007 conversion capabilities is a major problem for us.

  2. Posted January 25, 2009 at 10:00 AM | Permalink
  3. dferris
    Posted January 25, 2009 at 7:43 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for the response Ed–much appreciated.
    –David

  4. Patrick Kwinten
    Posted February 3, 2009 at 2:02 AM | Permalink

    I do not think MS will like every drop of MSOffice. I hear a lot of questions at customers how free Office suits can reduce their costs. So if this is a trend it will be hard to be stopped.

  5. ausGeoff
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 11:56 PM | Permalink

    Unfortunately for me, a word processor that can’t produce ENVELOPES at all — let alone with addressee and return address integrated into the function — is pretty useless. Most of my work involves posting out snail mail, so without ANY — even basic — envelope functionality, Symphony is dead in the water for me. Had it included this absolutely necessary feature, it’d be being downloaded like crazy. Sad really to see a potential killer app crippled like this.
    —Geoff.

  6. Alain
    Posted June 10, 2009 at 1:02 PM | Permalink

    Just wanted to say that Symphony 1.3 does envelope printing, and handles MS Office 2007 files.
    In a general way to say, Symphony is based on Java, vs? OO which is based on C/C++. A new version of Symphony is deployable on several languages just out of the box. This is not the case of OO.

  7. moi
    Posted June 20, 2009 at 2:12 AM | Permalink

    Better free office suites out there than Symphony 1.3.

    It takes several minutes to load. It also takes quite a bit of time to launch each of the applications. Plus, when I tried the Plug-ins and the Support Forum links, the program hung.

    If they’re trying to become the industry leader, a lot of work needs to be done to improve the program’s sluggish performance.

    One good point is that the colours are pleasing to the eye and the MS ribbon-like menu is easy to use.

  8. Posted August 11, 2009 at 3:20 AM | Permalink

    I used Lotus WordPro for my business for a few years. Then I switched to Word Perfect. Consequently, I have to run two different word processors. I wish I knew of a word processor that opened both of them and Word.

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