August 11, 2008

Open Source Software Gaining Ground

By Rozana Sani

FREE, open source office productivity tools are fast becoming the preferred alternative for users who are concerned about cost savings. Rozana Sani speaks to representatives of Sun Microsystems and IBM to get their views.

Open source, according to its proponents, is being adopted across major verticals such as public, technical, educational, financial, and services sectors and even among small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Sun Microsystems' marketing director Chong Soon Cheong says open source software, ranging from infrastructure and storage to enterprise applications such as customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning are in demand due to their ability to offer good vendor support and protection against security breaches.

"Businesses in this region are beginning to understand that open source and open standards in the computing industry combine to create a rising tide that lifts all boats - a perspective that's increasingly borne out in the market. Proprietary standards, by contract, lock markets and restrict growth.", an initiative of which Sun is a part of, uses the internationally recognised ISO26300/Open Document Format (ODF) standard for digital documents which assures end users that there are no proprietary lock-ins into any single vendor platform for their documents.

Chong says, "Many governments look to open source software and open standards to ensure sovereignty over their key intellectual assets. At Sun Microsystems, we are proud to have been a key contributor by donating the key technologies that made and Open Document Format possible with close collaboration with other industry players."

Meanwhile, IBM is making its presence felt in the free office productivity software market with Lotus Symphony, which has its origins from the company's SmartSuite office productivity software. The company is now offering the open source versions developed under the consortium.

Lotus Software country brand manager Eric Quah says Lotus Symphony takes advantage of Eclipse, Java, ODF and OpenOffice technologies to provide tools for general users as well as a software development platform for vendors that want to integrate spreadsheets or documents into their applications.

"IBM has taken great care in making Lotus Symphony available, and it has not `cut corners' although the product is free. We have translated it into 28 languages today, following IBM's translation standards. It is designed not only for end users, but also for vendors to embed it into their applications and then sell it."

There is a support plan available for enterprises that want to buy the product. For details, visit

Quah says there are plugins (Symphony extensions) that connect Lotus Symphony to many IBM products, including Lotus Notes, Lotus Quickr and Lotus Connections.

"Symphony provides a lot of value for people who want to save and load their documents using a Quickr Repository, or author a Lotus Connections blog using Symphony. We provide shortcuts between these products to integrate them and do not charge extra for this. These Connections are available for free from the Symphony Web site or as part of other products."

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