Out With IBM’s Lotus Symphony, In With Apache OpenOffice IBM Edition
IBM Symphony appears to have arrived at the end of the road. It’s not exactly unexpected, given the moves in productivity and collaboration space. According to Ed Brill, Director of Messaging and Collaboration Solutions at IBM, the release of Lotus Symphony 3.0.1 is likely to be the last release of the free productivity suite.

On his blog, following the release earlier in the week, he said that there probably wouldn’t be any further releases of Symphony and that IBM’s efforts will be going into the Apache OpenOffice project in the future, enabled by the hand-over last June of OpenOffice to the Apache Foundation by Oracle.

Ed says that Big Blue has contributed the Lotus Symphony code into the OpenOffice project along with the human resources for future development across development, product management and marketing operations.

In the future, he adds, they are expecting to distribute an “IBM edition” of Apache OpenOffice. For those who are already using it, the new release of Symphony keeps the current project updated with support for 1 million rows in spreadsheets, bubble charts and a new design for the home page.

Symphony In the Future

There has been some reaction to the news on the blog -- almost without exception related to what the future is looking like for Symphony users.

One poster called @2 said of the news:

“… they showed some mock-ups of OpenOffice.org 4.0 and it has no eclipse anywhere. It looked like OpenOffice.org with many of the Symphony UI enhancements, such as the sidebar and the right side vertical icon strip that changes the context of the sidebar.”

Another asked whether future post-3.0.1 versions will be over-layable on Notes, and what the future of the Symphony LotusScript API is?

In response, Eric Otchet product manager for Symphony and the upcoming Apache OpenOffice IBM Edition, said that the new Apache OpenOffice code will not be based on Eclipse and that all the Symphony code is going to the Apache project.

Future releases of Symphony 3.0.1 (fix packs) will be still be based on Eclipse/Expeditor. Symphony 3.0.1 will be included in Notes 8.5.4 (in the box) with the exception of the Mac client.

For Notes users, he said that they will be able to use the Apache OpenOffice the IBM Edition when it is available instead of or in addition to Symphony. However, users will not have the ability to embed the Apache OpenOffice the IBM Edition into the Notes client.

Symphony 3.0.1 will also continue to be supported for the lifecycle of the Notes 8.5.x clients through fix packs and maintenance releases as needed. And there ended the comments.

Lotus Symphony, IBM Docs

Launched five years ago, Lotus Symphony is a feature-rich set of free productivity tools made up of Lotus Symphony Documents, Lotus Symphony Spreadsheets and Lotus Symphony Presentations. 

Using standard file formats (ODF), it also offered support Microsoft Windows and Office file types.

But in June, when the issue over what Oracle was going to do with OpenOffice was finally resolved by the decision to hand it to Apache, IBM had, even at that stage, indicated what might happen to Symphony. In a statement at the time Big Blue said:

…[ It] will take an active, supportive role in the new OpenOffice.org code base submitted to The Apache Software Foundation Incubator… IBM will contribute staff resources to collaborate with the Apache community during the project’s incubation period to further the Open Document Format standard."

And this week’s announcement is just the logical follow-on from that. IBM had also been working at the same time on a new capability in the SmartCloud for Social Business, which came to fruition as IBM Docs.

Although nothing to do with Lotus Symphony, at all, it provides a brand spanking new cloud-based productivity suite that will offer word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software via the browser.

So in answer to the only other question -- whether IBM is out of the productivity race -- the answer is a resounding no.