IBM on Friday announced a new version of its Lotus Symphony office suite, with extra features aimed at Microsoft Office users, as part of the "ferocious competition" the company says it is in with Microsoft. At the same time, the company said it is phasing out Microsoft Office internally wherever possible.
"Users can easily drag and drop widgets directly into Lotus Symphony, distinguishing it from static office productivity tools such as Microsoft Word," said IBM in a statement. "This drag-and-drop feature also makes Symphony stand out from other Microsoft Office alternatives, simplifying the use and installation of widgets with just a single click."
Widgets are lightweight applications that can be combined and used to interact with underlying computing platforms. Symphony now integrates with Google Gadgets, Lotus Sametime, Lotus Quickr, Lotus Connections, Microsoft SharePoint, and MSN, all via widgets.
The new IBM widgets include a Team Marketplace widget that allows teams to work collaboratively on IBM and Microsoft documents; a chart-share widget; and a Symphony-to-wiki widget, IBM vice president of messaging and collaboration Kevin Cavanaugh told ZDNet UK on Friday.
"We have been in ferocious competition with Microsoft, and they are happy to take any part of our business," said Cavanaugh. "People have felt they have not had choices in office tools. We are going to provide an alternative (to Microsoft)."
Bob Picciano, general manager of IBM Lotus software, said in a statement: "Today there are more innovative, open alternatives such as Symphony that compare favorably to Microsoft Office. Symphony's open collaboration model can offer businesses limitless options--cost-effectively--at a time when many organizations are increasingly concerned about investing in Microsoft Office."
The technology giant's competition with Microsoft is not limited to extending Lotus functionality, according to an IBM spokesperson. IBM said on Friday that it is in the process of phasing out Microsoft Office use within the company by "encouraging users to move to Symphony". However, employees who need to use Microsoft Office can still use the software, the spokesperson added.
"Symphony is a showcase product for IBM, and as it is open and fits our Web 2.0 strategy, we have an initiative to significantly increase its use within IBM," said an IBM statement. "This will mean that, for some employees, they will no longer need or want legacy tools. In cases where such tools are still required, they will continue to be used in support of our business and that of our clients."
Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.