IBM announced the second version of Lotus Symphony (www.ibm.com/software/lotus/symphony), its popular, free desktop document software, which has now been downloaded by more than one-quarter million registered users — 88 percent of which are Microsoft customers — in its first two months. The new version of Lotus Symphony, Beta 2, features improved performance, access and ease-of-use.
Available in English to date, more than 50 percent of Lotus Symphony users are located outside the United States, including sizable groups in non-majority English speaking countries including Brazil and France. The top dozen nations adopting Symphony are: 1) United States, 2) United Kingdom, 3) France, 4) Brazil, 5) Canada, 6) Greater China Region, 7) Japan, 8) Germany, 9) Spain, 10) The Netherlands, 11) India and 12) Italy.
Approximately 12 percent of Symphony users are deploying the Linux version.
IBM has employed several new approaches to drive the success of Lotus Symphony. Operating a user-driven model in which customers are empowered to co-design the software through feedback on the Symphony Web page, IBM has responded to a range of customer requests. For example, in response to user requests for quicker and easier installation, IBM has accelerated the Symphony download process by 100 percent. Now users have an instant, one-click installation that produces a single Symphony icon for all three document editors. Clicking on the single icon allows the user to opt for either a word-processing document, a spreadsheet or a presentation file.
Performance was another area of user interest. The IBM technical team quickly identified areas in the code that could be optimized and tuned. As a result, overall performance has improved and some functions such as opening existing presentations run, on average, 50 percent faster.
The Symphony user community has provided feedback on other features and functions, some which are included in the new release and others that are still under development. For example, IBM Support is more readily available, so when users click on help within the Symphony editors, they are given a new menu choice connects them directly to the Symphony Web site. The User Forum has also been redesigned based on community feedback to make it easier to post comments in the right places.
IBM’s agile development process is also contributing to Symphony’s success. With agile development, teams of software programmers work around the clock — and around the world — to continuously improve Symphony in a continuous cycle that benefit users through faster access to technology improvements. As developers isolate issues, identify improvements and make them, they are able to update the master product in incremental “code drops” that are delivered to customers in mere weeks instead of waiting years for major releases, such as the next version of Microsoft Office. Symphony Beta 2, for example, was developed in less than eight weeks.
While the core of the Lotus Symphony development team is in China, IBM also has engineers, information technology architects and operations personnel worldwide who support it as well as IBM’s Open Document Format initiatives. Due to the strong market response, IBM is doubling its global resources devoted to Symphony, increasing the Symphony development team to more than 70 software programmers.
“Lotus Symphony has struck a deeper chord in society than any commercial product we’ve seen,” said Mike Rhodin, general manager, IBM Collaboration/Lotus Software. “It’s a spirit of independence, born of common sense. In this age of innovation, why should we pay a premium for the basic instruments that allow us to record information, rather than focus on what we do with it? IBM will continue to make it easier to access Symphony until it opens the door to innovation on every desktop.”
Toward that end, IBM has adjusted its normal product licensing restrictions. Since Symphony is a special offering akin to a public service, IBM is encouraging others to provide it as well. Now third parties can offer Symphony online or physically to their constituents without requiring special agreements or visiting the Lotus Symphony Web page on ibm.com. In fact, several media outlets around the world have requested the rights to redistribute Symphony and are planning to do so.