IBM’s Free Office Suite: Lotus Symphony
It’s Not About Microsoft vs Others….

IBM’s release of free software tools is important because it’s IBM. But in the overall context of things, it’s not earth shattering as there are so many free tools already. But it is important.

If you don’t want to buy Microsoft Office, but want FREE software for Word Processing, Spreadsheet and other tools, you can download software from OpenOffice.org of which the IBM software is based.
Lotus Symphony, the name of IBM’s software includes three applications: word processing, spreadsheets and presentations.
As I’ve said so many times, the key in buying technology is NOT first and foremost the dollar sign – meaning free or free. But it is what is best for you.
I use a mix of Microsoft software combined with hosted applications. Outlook, for example, connected to Plaxo. Google Apps for collaboration on projects.
Free software is good and you will save money – at the outset. But saving money today could cost you more money in the long run.
The huge advantage of Microsoft Office is that you have a tightly integrated suite of the best office suite on the market – overall. All other office suites are compared to Microsoft Office and what they do or do not have in comparison.
If your needs are basic – pretty much any office suite will do for you. But if you want to use Word and connect it with collaboration, it makes sense to use Microsoft Sharepoint. If you want to integrate Outlook, the integration is seamless within Microsoft Office.
This is NOT to say that many other programs do not integrate with Microsoft products, especially with Outlook (as many do) but it is to say that you need to strategically think of your IT strategy for the near and mid-term.
Google Apps, Zimbra’s collaboration suite, Zoho.com (online office suite) and of course Word Perfect all offer varying levels of office productivity applications and collaboration.
Your decision is to consider your internal business, your customers and your partners and standardize on a particular technology solution for office productivity, collaboration and communication.
IBM’s offering of its free Lotus Symphony means that you get a quite mature and stable company that will offer support. No worry that you’ll invest time in a company’s software, only to find that they’re out of business a few weeks later.
Of course your local technology consultant should be a part of any decision you make.

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Ramon Ray, Editor & Technology Evangelist, Smallbiztechnology.com . Editor and Founder, Smart Hustle Magazine Full bio at http://www.ramonray.com . Check him out on Google Plus, Twitter or Facebook