Analysis of IT news

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

News item: IBM announces a free office suite competing with MS Office

News item: IBM announces a free office suite competing with MS Office called Lotus Symphony.

Analysis: an office suite competing with Microsoft Office is nothing new. There has been some for decades, all trying in vain to survive in a market dominated by Redmond. Even a free office suite is nothing new (OpenOffice).

So is Symphony doomed before it is even released? Not necessarily. There has been office suites from known vendors such as Lotus or Borland, but they were not really cheap so people preferred the "real thing" and purchased MS Office. OpenOffice is free, but very few people hear about it because it has no marketing muscle. This is the first time there is a free office suite distributed by such a big name as IBM.

Why does it matter? Because IBM has both the marketing muscle and a greater ability to distribute its office suite through THE channel that matters: pre-installed on new PCs, starting with any Lenovo computers.

It's only as pre-installed that people will really start using Symphony (forget about free downloads or even free CDs). And IBM should focus first on individuals who are more price-sensitive and use much less features than their corporate counterparts.

Once individual start getting used to Symphony (and provided they like it at least as much as MS Office) only then does IBM's office suite has a chance in the corporate workplace. MS Office will however always have a stronghold in the corporate world, unless Microsoft really gets too cocky.

Because the other factor is Microsoft's behavior. Devoid of any real competition, Redmond has been greedier and greedier, trying to charge more and more for each new release of what is basically the same product (let's face it, most of us under-use the product and barely anybody knows the new features of the latest versions).

Of course, should Symphony start be successful, Microsoft might start
charging more reasonable fares. But at least Symphony would help restrain Redmond's appetite to charge more.

In any case, this will be a long battle. Even in the best case scenario, don't expect Symphony to overthrow MS Office overnight.

But more generally MS Office's true competitor is ODF (Open Document Format) which is supported by most new competing office suites nowadays (from Symphony to Google Docs). Contrary to Microsoft's OOXML format, ODF is ISO-certified which grants it some brownie points when considered by administrations all over the world. Furthermore, ODF shifts the competitive advantage for Office Suites from the customer base ("everybody has MS Office, so I should too") to features, convenience and price (where Microsoft is not in its strongest position).


  • Selon moi, la vraie menace pour MS Office vient plutôt de Google Docs (je vais essayer de suite le nouvel outil de présentation) mais cela ne pourra se sentir que sur le long terme...

    By Blogger Lefebvre, at 2:00 AM  

  • Le véritable concurrent de MS Office est le format ODF, et il est important pour ce dernier que plusieurs types de traitements de texte le supportent.

    Par exemple, plusieurs administrations voudront adopter un format certifié ISO comme ODF. L'existence d'un traitement de texte traditionnel comme Symphony édité par un nom "sérieux" comme IBM aide l'adoption d'ODF.

    By Blogger LP, at 11:53 AM  

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