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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

IBM Challenges Microsoft with Suite Deal

Another jab at Microsoft:

I.B.M. to Offer Office Software Free in Challenge to Microsoft’s Line, by Steve Lohr, NY Times: I.B.M. plans to mount its most ambitious challenge in years to Microsoft’s dominance ... by offering ... desktop software, called I.B.M. Lotus Symphony... The programs will be available as free downloads from the I.B.M ... Symphony software is a free alternative to Microsoft’s mainstay Office programs — Word, Excel and PowerPoint. ...

Its offerings are versions of open-source software developed in a consortium called OpenOffice.org. ... I.B.M.’s engineers have been working with OpenOffice technology for some time. But last week, I.B.M. declared that it was formally joining the open-source group, had dedicated 35 full-time programmers to the project and would contribute code to the initiative.

Free office productivity software has long been available from OpenOffice.org, and the open-source alternative has not yet made much progress against Microsoft’s Office. But I.B.M. ... has such reach and stature with corporate customers that its endorsement could be significant. ...

I.B.M. executives compare this move with the push it gave Linux... In 2000, I.B.M. declared that it would forcefully back Linux with its engineers, its marketing and its dollars. The support from I.B.M. helped make Linux a mainstream technology in corporations, where it competes with Microsoft’s Windows server software.

I.B.M. is also joining forces with Google... Google supports the same document formats in its online word processor and spreadsheet service.

I.B.M. views its Symphony desktop offerings as part of a broader technology trend that will open the door to faster, more automated movement of information within and between organizations.

A crucial technical ingredient, they say, is the ... OpenDocument Format. It makes digital information independent of the program, like a word processor or spreadsheet, that is used to create and edit a document. OpenDocument Format is based on an Internet-era protocol called XML, short for Extensible Markup Language, which enables automated machine-to-machine communication.

For example, an individual investor might create a spreadsheet with automated links to market information, and prices at which he or she wants to buy or sell shares in particular stocks. The person would get an alert by e-mail or cellphone message of price swings, and could create the document for a buy or sell order with a keystroke.

Or, in a doctor’s office, patient records could be linked to hospital, clinic and other databases and updated automatically.

Microsoft has the same vision of software automation, but it champions its own document format, called Office Open XML. Earlier this month, Microsoft failed in its initial effort to have Office Open XML ratified as a global technical standard by the International Organization for Standardization... The OpenDocument Format, backed by I.B.M., Google, Sun and others, was approved by the standards organization last year.

I.B.M. clearly regards its open-source desktop offerings as a strategic move in the document format battle. ... Any inroads I.B.M. and its allies make against Microsoft, analysts say, will not come easily. “Three major players — I.B.M., Google and Sun — are now solidly behind a potential competing standard to Office,” said Rob Koplowitz, an analyst at Forrester Research. “But it’s a tough road. Office is very entrenched.”

    Posted by on Tuesday, September 18, 2007 at 01:44 AM in Economics, Technology | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (19)

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