This is a read-only archive. Find the latest Linux articles, documentation, and answers at the new Linux.com!

Linux.com

Feature: Office Software

IBM Lotus Symphony turns old OOo code into enterprise Judas goat

By Mayank Sharma on June 10, 2008 (9:00:00 PM)

Share    Print    Comments   

Oracle and now IBM seem to have strange ideas about creating a business around open source software for the enterprise. First it was Oracle's Unbreakable Linux program, derived from Red Hat Enterprise Linux sans its proprietary bits and supported for peanuts to beat RHEL and similar community projects such as CentOS. Now it's IBM, which has taken old OpenOffice.org code under the now-retired Sun Industry Standards Source License and released it as a proprietary closed source freeware office suite. The first stable release of IBM Lotus Symphony, released last week, has no obvious advantages over OpenOffice.org. The suite is targeted at enterprise customers, at the expense of free and open source alternatives.

There are three clear giveaways that IBM is gunning for the enterprise desktop with Lotus Symphony. The first is the marketing material for Symphony. All the Flash overviews concentrate on examples that revolve around business users and how they can create and deliver business documents, presentations, and spreadsheets with Symphony. A video on the home page shows how resident superhero Crescendo "helps organizations cut down their IT budgets."

Second is the list of official supported Linux distributions. Lotus Symphony 1.0 is supported only on SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (and Windows). These two distributions are the two most popular enterprise Linux distros.

This doesn't mean Symphony won't work on community distros such as Fedora, Ubuntu, or Mandriva. In fact, I tried installing the binary on all three, and sure enough it works, but not without a little tweaking before or after the installation, depending on the distro. Since these popular distros are not officially supported, it's not surprising that such errors show up in the final release despite being reported by users and resolved by IBM support admins on the forums while Symphony was in beta.

The final giveaway of Symphony's enterprise ambitions came a few days after the software's May release, when IBM announced its plan to sell help desk services for the office suite. If you can't find your way around the Lotus Symphony suite of a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation software, despite the free, extensive built-in help and online forums, IBM will help you do so for $25,000 a year. I'm not sure how many organizations, let alone individuals, will care to part with that kind of cash to support easy-to-use apps.

So it's pretty clear that IBM is going for enterprise desktops -- and there's nothing wrong with that. Many organizations and individuals would jump at the opportunity to use a free office suite from a big banner software vendor. But Lotus Symphony lacks the quality you'd expect from a product from the IBM stable.

For starters, the user interface (on Linux at least) doesn't look very slick and modern, and doesn't render well, especially in lower resolutions like 1024x768. Even at 1280x1024, which is the default resolution these days for most laptops and 17-inch LCDs, you'll have to horizontally scroll to access some functions in the sidebar which cannot be resized. Lotus Symphony is also relatively slow off the block compared to OpenOffice.org. But that's because Symphony is based on OpenOffice.org 1.1.4 (which is more than three years old), which was the last OOo release dual-licensed under the SISSL, which allowed developers to keep their modifications private. But Don Harbison, director of the ODF Initiative for IBM claims in an interview that the old OOo code has been heavily rewritten by IBM for Symphony.

True, there are a couple of good and unique things about Symphony. In addition to the slick features I mentioned in my review of the first beta release of Symphony, such as an ODF default save option, tabbed interface, Exposé-like window tracking, and built-in browser, the final release has tons of enhancements and a slew of useful plugins. The plugins are easy to install and add useful features, such as rebranding some components of Lotus Symphony, exporting presentations to Flash, connecting with an external database, and sending documents as email while editing.

But here again, IBM has botched up, since most of the important plugins (such as the database connection plugin and exporting presentations to Flash) work only with the Windows version of Symphony.

It's strange IBM decided to fork an open source application into a closed source alternative, when it could have offered support services around the OpenOffice.org suite itself. More so since it took IBM more than six months and four beta releases to get to version 1.0, and yet it only supports a small number of platforms and operating systems, and there's no release for Macs. Even existing components like the plugins don't work across the supported platforms.

IBM won't be able to leverage the "cost-effective office suite from a big banner software vendor" pitch forever without backing it up with better code.

Share    Print    Comments   

Comments

on IBM Lotus Symphony turns old OOo code into enterprise Judas goat

Note: Comments are owned by the poster. We are not responsible for their content.

IBM Lotus Symphony turns old OOo code into enterprise Judas goat

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 64.186.239.73] on June 10, 2008 10:50 PM
Mayank Sharma,

If you are running oracle database, from support point of view it makes total sense to use Oracle's RHEL distribution, as both the DB and OS are supported by the same vendor and there is no finger pointing when there is an issue.

Symphony sounds like a interesting approach. Thanks for sharing this article with us.

Ramesh,
TheGeekStuff.com

#

Re: IBM Lotus Symphony turns old OOo code into enterprise Judas goat

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 147.62.42.119] on June 11, 2008 12:08 PM
[QUOTE]If you are running oracle database, from support point of view it makes total sense to use Oracle's RHEL distribution[/QUOTE]
No - it doesn't make sense at all for the following reasons:

1. Oracle's GNU/Linux distribution trails the original - i.e. patches to RHEL produced and released by RHEL have to be re-patched by Oracle. Therefore every security patch arrives in RHEL first.

2. Oracle makes Oracle and has limited experience with the GNU/Linux OS components. In contrast RHEL is a major contributor in the GNU/Linux eco-system. New features and enhancements will ALWAYS comes first in RHEL and Oracle will be forced to trail by one version release at least.

3. Oracle hasn't stopped selling support for Oracle on RHEL.

4. The cost of supporting one RHEL server annually is a tiny percent of the cost of buying (yes - you have to BUY Oracle DB first) and supporting Oracle. The savings you make by combining the two are negligible compared to losing the vast expertise of RHEL in producing, supporting and managing GNU/Linux systems.

5. Red Hat has been at the top spot for levels of service provided for 3 years running. Oracle is no where in the top 10.


#

What matters most is the file format

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 151.188.247.104] on June 11, 2008 03:22 AM
If this is a vector that can increase ODF's presence in enterprises, then I'm all for it. The more ubiquitous ODF becomes, the better off we all are (unless your a MS stockholder/employee, that is! Heh heh).

That said, I would never, ever use it on my systems. I'm at OO.o 2.4; good though OO.o 1.1.4 was for its time, why would I go back to it now? I get ODF with what I have, and I get to use an office suite in freedom, regardless of platform.

The only reason I'd go for an older version of OO.o is if I'm in a third-world country with 486/Pentium I PC's running Windows 95. Yes, Windows 95, from 12-13 years ago. They don't have the money to upgrade, pure and simple, and they're not networked. But they want MS Office 97/2000/XP compatibility. So, I give them OO.o 1.0.3 on a CD (these older PC's at least do have 4x CD-ROM readers). I give them several others to share w/ their friends. The fact that the original OO.o formats are ZIP archives keeps the files small enough to fit on their floppies.

The result has been that they (and their friends) all start using .sxw and the other default OO.o formats...which, of course, are supported on all subsequent OO.o versions, too!

But that's the only time I'd ever go backwards. If someone's got a Pentium III or newer, OO.o 2.4 is (today) the way I would lead them.

#

Re: What matters most is the file format

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 151.188.247.104] on June 11, 2008 03:24 AM
Slight edit: "That said, I would never, ever use this IBM Symphony on my systems." I thought that was clear as I wrote the above post, but just to make sure.

#

IBM Lotus Symphony turns old OOo code into enterprise Judas goat

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 193.167.195.60] on June 11, 2008 08:59 AM
The user interface does not look slick or modern? There must be something wrong with either your computer or your eyes. Compared to openoffice it looks like years ahead:
http://symphony.lotus.com/software/lotus/symphony/product_ss_wpe.jspa
Having tried it in both windows and linux i can only complain about the speed.
And as someone has said, if it´s another way to get ODF into peoples computers i´m all for it.

#

Re: IBM Lotus Symphony turns old OOo code into enterprise Judas goat

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 212.84.126.120] on June 11, 2008 07:08 PM
"The user interface does not look slick or modern?"

That's right, it doesn't. Compared to OO on Kubuntu it looks good (but what doesn't?) but compared to OO on SuSE it ain't great (and that difference between the OO versions may be causing the issue).

#

IBM Lotus Symphony turns old OOo code into enterprise Judas goat

Posted by: Morten Juhl-Johansen Zölde-Fejér on June 11, 2008 09:07 AM
I see no point in going backwards for weaker PCs. Using an older version is pointless - one should simply accept that this program is for a different scale of PCs and use something like the excellent Abiword instead.

#

Re: IBM Lotus Symphony turns old OOo code into enterprise Judas goat

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 151.188.213.252] on June 11, 2008 07:12 PM
Yep, I like AbiWord, too, and I use it plenty. It's a mighty fine, lightweight word processor.

However, these folks know what the MS Office suite is. No spreadsheet, no presentation, and not quite as good MS Word file format fidelity if you go w/ AbiWord. You give them close enough to what they know and want...or they go pirate MS Office, which is not what we want. They can handle "slow loading", as long as they can actually load it.

#

IBM Lotus Symphony turns old OOo code into enterprise Judas goat

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.168.2.224] on June 11, 2008 02:52 PM
I think the reason for Symphony is its integration into Lotus Notes 8. There you can create Writer/Calc/Presentation Dokuments directly within a Lotus-Notes Database. I like the idea of having an office suite integrated in my collaboration suite.
The release of Symphony as standalone application could be for those that don't use Lotus Notes but want the same interface.

#

IBM Lotus Symphony turns old OOo code into enterprise Judas goat

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.237.174.94] on June 11, 2008 03:12 PM
Symphony is a good example of why FOSS advocates need to stop hammering the "free as in beer" aspect of FOSS to the enterprise. Anyone can release software for "free" (gratis) and build a business model selling support or value-adds.

But I wonder what happens a couple years from now if IBM decides they need to make money on the project and start charging, or making the free version a cut-down featureset. Or (as is more likely) they abandon it because it isn't making them money.

OpenOffice.org will still be there, thankfully.

#

IBM Lotus Symphony turns old OOo code into enterprise Judas goat

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 199.79.10.118] on June 11, 2008 07:20 PM
I used the beta and was duly unimpressed. I understand why IBM went for that OO license version, but I don't understand why they didn't update the code. The annoying part is that you still need to load a database program...like Base or MySql so where's the advantage. If cutting corners is that important to them then this is the best product they deserve.

I'll stick to the original Sun products...it's not like I'm losing money on them. Besides, the wiki support is as good as a tech guy needs anyhow.

#

IBM Lotus Symphony turns old OOo code into enterprise Judas goat

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 10.0.1.2] on June 11, 2008 09:04 PM
"The first stable release of IBM Lotus Symphony, released last week, has no obvious advantages over OpenOffice.org."

Yes, it does. It will open Lotus Wordpro files without issue. As far as I know, Ooo does not.

#

If it were Novell or Sun doing this ...

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 199.81.64.110] on June 12, 2008 07:09 PM
PJ over at Groklaw would be all over this; expounding on the "fact" that Novell and/or Sun don't "get it" when it comes to the GPL.

Alas, without really knowing anything about her, or her professional background, we will never know the reason for her bias toward IBM.

#

MCSE Alert!

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 151.188.247.104] on June 13, 2008 08:53 PM
Or could you be Mr. McBride or Mr. Sontag? :-D Whoever you are, you're clearly a Microsoft/SCO sympathizer, at the least.

As those of us with an actual clue already know, PJ has no "bias" toward IBM. She does, however, have a bias toward basic fair play and freedom. Novell and Sun are both participants in maintaining that freedom, sure. But Sun, like Microsoft, also directly financially contributed to the (unfounded) SCO lawsuit against IBM regarding Linux. Then Novell made that dangerous, and absurd, patent deal with Microsoft; fortunately, we have the GPLv3 to protect us against further use of that machination.

Had Novell not made that "Deal with the Devil", she would be praising them to high heaven, just like I and many others used to do. There are a several good reasons to praise Novell, and she has publicly acknowledged and thanked them for their efforts in quashing the SCOundrels, for example. Multiple times.

And if Sun would actually wake up and figure out how to do FOSS right in a consistent way (e. g. cooperating much better with both Theo's and Linus's teams, and GNU/Linux distro makers, over time), and not fund SCO (and thus Microsoft's proxy efforts), then she would be praising Sun as well. Sun is schizophrenic that way; they are *huge* FOSS contributors on one side...but on the other side, they really would like to see GNU/Linux go away. I wish Sun would just pick a direction and go with it, for a change!

#

Re: MCSE Alert!

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 199.81.64.110] on June 13, 2008 10:07 PM
No, I'm NOT a SCO sympathiser. I'm just a hypocrite-critic - and PJ, by not commenting on this anti-FOSS action by IBM, shows her true (and BIASED) colours.

#

IBM aiming for a specific market

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 199.164.56.5] on June 12, 2008 10:25 PM
The author misses the importance of that $25,000 maintenance agreement. That IS the difference between Symphony and OO, and why IBM is doing this. Open is not the issue, and money is not the issue. The issue is giving the customer what the customer wants.

Symphony is good because it is aimed at specifically the people who are keeping the M$ lockin alive... those who ONLY buy software when it comes with a support package from a major vendor. Those entities will NEVER use OpenOffice because it doesn't come with support.

Lotus Notes is widely used, and is a known quantity to those users. More importantly, it provides functionality that they are acustomed to from M$ Exchange. (And if you don't think that's an issue, check out how many times you've heard of someone migrating everything except the exchange servers.) Moving to an office suite that is compatible, and has support (from the same well known company, no less) will feel *safe* for them, while allowing them to walk away from M$.

$25,000 is a drop in the bucket to a company the size of IBM, and they'd have to sell an awful lot of licenses before it would register more than a flicker on their balance sheet. I'd hazard a guess that the money is less important to IBM than to keep customers happy migrating to Linuz running their big shiny IBM hardware.

#

IBM Lotus Symphony turns old OOo code into enterprise Judas goat

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.106.176.19] on June 13, 2008 03:30 PM
IBM and Novell have screwed over every company they have ever partnered or worked with. Yet with IBM Lotus Symphony and Novell with the Microsoft deal seems to have surprised many in the open source community. You people are so gullible. Novell and IBM dont want to partake in Stallmans flute.

#

IBM Lotus Symphony turns old OOo code into enterprise Judas goat

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 88.252.56.133] on June 16, 2008 01:57 PM
Alas, without really knowing anything about her, or her professional background, we will never know the reason for her bias toward IBM.

http://www.sibermsn.net

#

This story has been archived. Comments can no longer be posted.



 
Tableless layout Validate XHTML 1.0 Strict Validate CSS Powered by Xaraya