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IBM's Mills Opens Up on Collaboration

IBM recently made a new version of its Lotus Symphony collaboration software available for free. Why are you taking on the challenge of gaining market share from Microsoft Office? Why is that strategically important to IBM?

This really starts with open standards. Documents are incredibly important to the way that businesses and governments run. We have a situation in the IT industry today where you have one company delivering its own unique formats, and therefore the only provider of an editor that adhere to those formats. Now you as a business or government are now tied to those editors in order to manipulate those formats. Why not an open format that anyone can build an editor for? Documents get ingested by different types of applications. So the need for an Open Document Format (the new version of Symphony supports this format) and open editing capability jumps out at you whenever you engage in a lot of complex business-process flows and business-operations scenarios that we get involved in.

We find Microsoft Office, particularly the Microsoft Word phenomenon, as essentially impeding some of the strategies that we're trying to drive in the marketplace. It's not because the editor's a bad editor, it's because the formats are not open. To store and retrieve the documents and maintain their fidelity, I need Microsoft products. If I want to do more things with those documents, the next thing I have to do is buy more Microsoft technology. Then when the documents need to be shared, everybody needs to have more Microsoft technology. It's not that Microsoft is doing something you wouldn't expect a company to do—of course they want everybody to buy more Microsoft technology. From our perspective, we'd like to see an open-standard approach in which customers can create documents in Microsoft Word but share them with other products, pull them into other editors, manage, store, retrieve, and modify them, and not necessarily have to buy a full suite of Microsoft technology to do that. That's the issue. Focus Areas: BPEL | DITA | ebXML | IDtrust | OpenDocument | SAML | UBL | UDDI
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