Free office market is getting crowded


I originally wrote this post under the impression that IBM was launching an online Office suite based on Star Office, but instead it has launched a free downloadable office suite. My apologies.

As expected, Google has finally launched its long-awaited PowerPoint-style presentation app — Google Presently — which was discovered by the ever-resourceful Ionut Alex Chitu earlier this year. It’s the final piece of Google’s online Office-style suite, which it is now pushing to sell to corporations in direct competition with Microsoft’s Office.

And now IBM has decided to awaken from its slumber and get into the game as well, with the launch of a Lotus-branded free suite built on Sun’s Star Office software, called Lotus Symphony. An IDC analyst tells the New York Times:

“I.B.M. is jumping in with products that are backed by I.B.M., with the I.B.M. brand and I.B.M. service,” said Melissa Webster, an analyst for IDC, a research firm. “This is a major boost for open source on the desktop.”

As the NYT story points out, this is also another big gesture of support for the Open Document Format, which Star Office and Open Office use and which Google’s document services also support. Microsoft, of course, is championing a competing format. And Mike Masnick notes that Yahoo’s purchase of Zimbra means there could soon be another large competitor in the free and online Office game.

Anyone want to buy

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