Who in the world would be using Lotus Symphony?

by Volker Weber

Ed mentions two videos on YouTube. I won't go into all the details of how terrible they are. Interestingly enough, engineering folks are trying their hand on marketing. There seems to be a grassroots effort within Lotus to get product messages out via YouTube. Some of them expressed their distaste for some of my videos, since they show up with the marketing videos not done by Marketing.

Anyway, the discussion at Ed's is now who is not a potential Symphony user. Alan said, it's not the finance director. I have a longer list, who is not a Symphony user:

  1. He is not a Notes 8 user, otherwise he would already have everything in Symphony.
  2. He is not a Microsoft Office user. Right?
  3. He is not an OpenOffice user, since that would give him more than Symphony anyway.
  4. He is not a StarOffice user, because that is the deluxe version of an OpenOffice user.
  5. He is not a Mac user.
  6. He is not a Linux user, since Linux distros already make him an OpenOffice user.

He is probably an IBM customer who likes IBM products, even if they do less, and need more ressources. However, as an IBM customer, he does not use Lotus Notes, or he cannot use Notes 8 because of outdated hardware, which probably means he also cannot use Symphony.

The Symphony user also does not exchange documents with OpenOffice users, since OpenOffice and Symphony don't exchange documents very well, although both claim ODF fame. The Symphony user also does not exchange documents with Microsoft Office users, for the same reason.

So who is he?


When you say OpenOffice and Symphony don't exchange documents very well, on what do you base that? I have had lots of success with this, at least with the earlier version embedded in Notes, but I know people who don't have Notes but like the Symphony look and feel. OpenOffice has more features, but is pretty klunky, and there are certainly those who prefer the Symphony look and feel. Also, most of the people I know using Symphony were MS Office users but want to move on to a free solution and see Symphony as a solution that gives them what Notes has without needing Notes (these are people who use Gmail and AOL for mail).

Now, I prefer OpenOffice as a stand alone solution, but only just barely. There are a bunch of quirks that IBM has fixed with Symphony, and a bunch of other quirks they have introduced. I just don't think it is so far fetched to think people would want to choose Symphony. Just my opinion, of course.

Ben Langhinrichs, 2007-11-14


just as a comparison data point, have you looked at or evaluated Office 2007? I'm curious on your thoughts about the overall usability of the re-designed UI.


tony ollivier, 2007-11-15

I think releasing the productivity editors as Symphony serves a number of purposes:Create some buzz and restart the discussion around Office FilesDecouple improvement from the core Notes dev cycleHave another entry in the list of ODF implementationsGet access to OO2.x code to plug the holes in the feature listGet an Expeditor light Framework out there. It is too tempting for not to happen: Open the sideshelf in Symphony... or add a consumer email client etc.@Tony: The MSO2007 UI is great when you are new user. When you have mastered a previous version of office you have to un-learn and re-learn a lot of things. So far the cognitive cost/benefit is murky. The UI actually looks rather similar to older concepts

:-) stw

Stephan H. Wissel, 2007-11-15

Stephan, you are listing a number of purposes that Symphony servers for IBM. It does not explain who the intended user of Symphony is.

Tony, yes, I looked at it. I think it is interesting. But I don't want to live in interesting times. :-) Therefore I don't use any Microsoft software that requires activation, which I find a genuine disadvantage. Microsoft sends them to me, I do try them, but when they stop working, I just kick the virtual machine which runs them. Office's strongest competitor is older versions of Office.

Ben, Symphony has borrowed some concepts from Office 2003, like the task panes. I don't find them very useful. For instance, I was not able to set the cell format in the spreadsheet. I don't care very much about fonts in spreadsheets, but I do need to set the number format.

I will need to look up the difficulties we had working with current OpenOffice documents in Symphony. They were substantial enough to not recommend Symphony. Our biggest complaint was extremely poor performance though.

Volker Weber, 2007-11-15


Have you tried Beta 2. The Beta 2 Symphony performs much better, but not perfect on my old windows machine. Have not tried on Linux, but on the windows machine it is useable. I like the UI of Symphony and think it is an alternative to Openoffice for home user.

Ralf M Petter, 2007-11-15

Potential clients are smb clients trying to reduce the budget on software purchases, are not very MS minded and who do not like open source software. Symphony is not open source, it's IBM...

Hubertus Amann, 2007-11-15

That would be this person:

He is probably an IBM customer who likes IBM products, even if they do less, and need more ressources.

Volker Weber, 2007-11-15

Hubertus is describing me. Well, to a degree anyway; I am not anti-open source but the rest applies as is.

I am not and never will be a Symphony user. For ODF purposes, and for performance, I prefer Open Office. Right now we mostly use MSO2K. You heard right. O2K, not O2K3.

Volker is right. The biggest competitor to MS Office, and the most deeply entrenched, is older versions of MS Office.

Chris Linfoot, 2007-11-15

If nothing else fits then it probably is the deskless worker.

Henning Heinz, 2007-11-15

Perhaps it doesn't matter short term whether anyone ACTUALLY uses Symphony as their full-time office suite?

For me it is the longer term benefits of getting consumers talking about Lotus products on their desktop again, and giving IBM access to OO2.x that are the important benefits...

Stuart McIntyre, 2007-11-15

"He" is a she, it's on my better half's PC.

We don't use Office and she uses webmail to access her email so no Notes client either.

Ben Rose, 2007-11-15

I would tend to think that the user (or, rather, the audience) is an IT director who wants to explore non-Microsoft options for Office, but is "afraid" of open source software. There are plenty of those. I never cease to be amazed by how many IT departments turn their nose up at using open source software (even ones that rely on open source for critical operations in the background and might not know or admit it).

For those people, Symphony at least allows them to have a conversation around moving away from MS Office. They'd much rather have something supported by IBM than something supported by that weird and ungainly Internet open source community.

Julian Robichaux, 2007-11-15

Does anyone know what the official cost for Symphony support will be yet? The forums are free, but most corporates if they were to consider this solution would want support with service response levels etc.

Carl Tyler, 2007-11-15

There is no such thing as a current Symphony user, it isn't ready. There may well be Symphony evaluators. These are probably people who like the idea of OpenOffice.org in an Eclipse container, because they are doing other stuff with Eclipse. I don't see the point of using Symphony as a standalone product, but if you are trying to stuff a load of things into Eclipse and want an office suite there too alongside your other stuff then you might evaluate Symphony. Symphony will hopefully become more realistic when they follow the OOo codebase a bit closer. At the moment it is based on 1.1 which is rather elderly and slow. The interesting thing will be how much Symphony lags OOo and then by how much Notes lags Symphony.
I also expect that Symphony is the Homologation of Notes 8 with respect to the LGPL requirements of the new OOo code. It doesn't matter a stuff to IBM if nobody ever uses Symphony, it wasn't a big deal to produce it (it is the Notes 8 build without the Notes bit compiled in) the whole project is paid for by IBM's internal deployment and it serves as a separator for the LGPL code and the Notes code demonstrating a lack of tight coupling.

Alan Bell, 2007-11-16

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