IBM takes a swipe at Microsoft Office's market

In a bold swipe at Microsoft's share of the office (both the office as in location and Office as in program) software market, IBM today announced the newest version of its Lotus Symphony could fully support any files from Office 2007.

The kicker: Lotus Symphony is a free business productivity software suite. In this economy, companies looking to shave pennies anywhere and everywhere might look closer than usual at freeware, especially freeware developed and supported by IBM.

The latest version of Symphony now supports Office 2007 file types (.docx, .xlsx, .pptx, and the like), so any company that's used Microsoft in the past would retain access to all their old files, which IBM is pushing as a major selling point. Symphony also has animations that can be merged into PowerPoint presentations.

It also has made improvements to DataPilot Table, IBM says, making it easier to analyze data, and has a new plug-in that can be installed on the right sidebar of the program to help users learn new capabilities of the program as they're working. (Here's hoping that it's less annoying than the old Microsoft Office paper clip - remember that?)

IBM in its press release cited a few customers who are choosing Symphony over Office, including The John Lewis Partnership, which owns Waitrose, John Lewis and Greenbee, which are retail businesses in the U.K. - supermarkets, department stores, online/catalogue business, a direct services company and a farm. All told, JLP had nearly £6.9 billion in revenue in 2008, but chose Symphony over Office because using Office justin its retail stores would have been cost-prohibitive, according to IBM. Instead, 8,000 employees will get Symphony instead.

Also cited was Italian food distributor Gruppo Amadori, which is ditching Microsoft entirely, migrating 6,000 employees from Windows to Linux and Office to Symphony.