More thoughts on Lotus Symphony

September 20 2007

I wanted to expand on my thoughts, and those of Nathan Freeman , on the IBM announcement and release of Lotus Symphony. First, I pretty much agree with all of the reasons Nathan outlined. They are all valid and make sense. I wanted to add 3 more reasons why Lotus Symphony will have major impact.

1. The weight of IBM behind the OpenOffice.org organization. If anyone wants to see how IBM can get behind an open source initiative, look at Eclipse.org. If you are building a development tool, and you are not doing an addin to Visual Studio.NET, you are building it on top of Eclipse.org. There are so many tools out there. IBM has been the big driver behind making Eclipse.org the success it is today. Imagine what IBM can do for the OpenOffice.org community. Yes, OpenOffice.org has some supporters. Yes, they have had some successes. But the weight and power of IBM will drive the organization forward. We will see major and massive movement in the open source OOO world in the next couple of years.

2. The reach of IBM. No other company, besides Microsoft, has more people interacting with customers in the real world than IBM. Sales people, support people, and other IBMers are in daily contact with customers. As IBMers use Symphony and customers see them use it, the exposure of OOO and ODF to the world will dramatically increase. We will see rogue downloads of Symphony and it's use will spring up all over the place. I bet more people will interact with OOO in the next year than all of the people since the first release of OOO came out.

3. Leverage. One of the ways that you compete with your competitors is take away advantages they have. One of Microsoft's largest advantages is the huge warchest of money that they can pump into R&D. Where does that money come from? Windows and Office. One of the things that Symphony will do is give customers a leverage point when negotiating Enterprise License Agreements. "Why should I pay X per user for the Microsoft software stack when I can use Symphony for free?" Imagine what the lost of revenue for Microsoft is if just IBM does not renew it's Office licenses? 165,000 users no longer using Office (potentially of course). At even $100 bucks a user .. that is real money. I already know of customers who are going to use this as leverage when their contracts come up. Do we think Microsoft is going to let those customers walk away from Office? NO WAY! But they might drop the cost ... maybe up to 50%. That denies Microsoft huge amounts of money to spend on Exchange, Sharepoint, and Office development. That makes it easier for IBM to compete. Add Linux, the Wii/PS3, Google, iPod, Flash/Flex and Firefox competition to Notes & Domino and OOO/Symphony. That is a boat load of competition they have to focus on. Now, I am not saying they can not do it. Just that it got a lot tougher.

IBM just fired a shot across the bow of the Microsoft flagship. Nice job IBM.

Another thought I wanted to share ... and this is a 100% non-IBM comment ... I do not expect to see Symphony merged with the OOO 2.X code stream. If you look at the schedule of OOO 3.0, which was highlighted at the keynote of the OOoCOn 2007 (OpenOffice.org Development conference) this week in Barcelona, they plan on shipping OOO 3.0 in the Spring/Summer 2008 time frame. We all know that Notes & Domino "Next" is targeted for the later half of 2008. So my prediction is we will see the Symphony merge happen with that codebase. I think that would be a great strategy. IBM should focus on contributing back into the OOO codebase the work they have done on accessibility, file formats, and the UI changes such as the properties sidebar. Then, do a single code merge and come out with a rocking Symphony release based on 3.0. And, make sure that the new OOO Extensions that came in 2.3 are made available via Eclipse plug-ins and as part of the policies in Domino.

Damn, it is a great time to be a IBM fan. As someone who makes his living on integration of Office, OOO, and Symphony into the Lotus product line, welcome to the kick ass journey :-)