Threats to Office Multiply with New Offerings from Adobe, IBM

Paying for word processing software may soon be a thing of past if Microsoft competitors Adobe, Google, and IBM have any say.

Google already offers Google Docs, a free hosted suite of word processing, spreadsheet and presentation tools plus online storage. And, of course, there's OpenOffice (and the OpenOffice-derived NeoOffice for Mac OS X), the no-cost, open source application suite currently working on its third version.

Now Adobe has jumped into the fray with Acrobat.com, a new beta site featuring free online hosting and collaboration tools. The suite offers a word processor, PDF converter, and Web conferencing/desktop sharing tools.

Adobe has integrated Acrobat.com into Acrobat 9, also announced Monday and slated for a July release. Developer APIs are available for custom integration, the company said.

"Acrobat.com enables individuals to truly work collaboratively on electronic documents," the company said in its announcement of the suite. "Acrobat.com delivers a new way for people to work together online."

Registration for the Acrobat.com is currently open.

And that's not the only new threat: IBM Tuesday unveiled the 1.0 version of Lotus Symphony, its free application suite based on the Open Document Format (ODF).

Symphony, released in beta format last year, offers a word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation program. It also offers open APIs for integration with Eclipse or other frameworks, the company said.

The free download of 1.0 is now available here, although IBM's Symphony blog notes that the site is experiencing "intermittent problems with the downloads due to heavy demand." It supports Windows and Linux only.

Along with the release of the suite today, IBM announced a new "elite" support package for large enterprises using Symphony. According to reports, the package costs a flat $25,000.

While Microsoft offers free online collaboration tools for Office users through its Office Live Workspace beta, users must have purchased versions of the related Office software to use the site. The Office Live Small Business version of the offering includes a Web site, e-mail, and domain name free for one year.

About the Author

Becky Nagel is executive editor, Web Initiatives for the 1105 Redmond Media Group and the editor of Redmondmag.com.

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