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Coming Soon: An 'IBM Edition' of Apache OpenOffice

Lotus Symphony 3.0.1, launched last week, marks the end of the line before IBM shifts its focus to OpenOffice instead.

IBM's Lotus Symphony office suite has offered users a free Microsoft Office alternative since 2007, but last week saw the release of what's very likely the last version of the software.

Based itself on the open source OpenOffice.org suite, Lotus Symphony 3.0.1 adds enhancements including support for one million spreadsheet rows, bubble charts, and a new design for the home page. From now on, however, IBM will turn its attention instead to Apache OpenOffice, according to a recent blog post from Ed Brill, director of messaging and collaboration for IBM Lotus software.

"This will likely be the last release of IBM's own fork of the OpenOffice codebase," Brill wrote in a Monday post announcing the availability of Lotus Symphony 3.0.1. "Our energy from here is going into the Apache OpenOffice project."

Last July, IBM announced that it was donating its Symphony code to the Apache Software Foundation, which had just recently received the OpenOffice.org suite from Oracle.

Code and Manpower

IBM has already contributed its Lotus Symphony code into the OpenOffice project, Brill noted, as well as dedicating manpower across its development, product management, and marketing organizations.

Next, the company plans to distribute an "IBM edition" of Apache OpenOffice, Brill said.

Symphony 3.0.1 will be included in Notes 8.5.4, noted Eric Otchet, product manager for Symphony and the upcoming Apache OpenOffice IBM Edition, in a comment on Brill's post. In addition, IBM will continue to support Symphony 3.0.1 for the lifecycle of the Notes 8.5.x clients through "fixpacks and maintenance releases as needed," he added.

IBM will also support Notes customers who choose to use the forthcoming IBM Edition of Apache OpenOffice instead of or in addition to Symphony, Otchet said, and "we are looking at how to extend our Symphony LotusScript support to the Apache OpenOffice code in the future."

A Crowded Arena

Things are complicated these days in the world of free and open source office productivity suites.

In addition to the Apache OpenOffice project, which is readying its Apache OpenOffice 3.4 for release this quarter, there's also now Germany-based Team OpenOffice.org working on its own "White Label Office 3.3.1."

Version 3.5 of the widely embraced LibreOffice fork from the Document Foundation, meanwhile, is imminent.

Finally, it's also worth noting that IBM recently launched a beta version of a cloud-based offering called IBM Docs that will offer yet another office productivity alternative.

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