IBM has released the second version of the popular desktop document software, Lotus Symphony (www.ibm.com/software/lotus/symphony), which has already been downloaded by more than a quarter-million registered users — 88% of whom are Microsoft customers — in its first two months. With Lotus Symphony Beta 2, IBM has raised performance, access and ease-of-use — everything except price, which remains no charge.
Available only in English to date, it may be surprising that more than 50% of Lotus Symphony users are located outside the US, including sizable groups in non-majority English speaking countries. The Symphony top 12 nations in terms of adoption rates are: the US; UK; France; Brazil; Canada; Greater China Region; Japan; Germany; Spain; Netherlands; India; and Italy. About 12% of Symphony users are deploying the Linux version.
IBM has employed several innovative approaches to driving the success of Lotus Symphony. Operating in 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 one, the Symphony download process has accelerated by 100%. Early adopters were experiencing installation problems after downloading due to the packaging of the programme and vocalised their frustrations on the Symphony site. IBM responded by simplifying the download process. Now users have an instant, one-click installation that produces one Symphony icon for all three document editors. Clicking on the single icon allows the user to opt for a word-processing document, a spreadsheet or a presentation file.
Application performance speed was another area of user interest. The IBM technical team went into trouble-shooting mode and quickly identified areas in the code that could be better optimised and tuned. The IBM team addressed the issue by re-coding areas in the code that were not optimised and tuned for performance. As a result, overall performance has improved and some functions such as opening existing presentations run on average 50% faster.
The Symphony user community has provided feedback on other features and functions, some that have been included in this release and others that are still in the pipeline. For example, IBM Support is more readily available. Now when users click on help within the Symphony editors, they are given a new menu choice that allows them to connect directly to the Symphony Web page via a browser. The User Forum has also been redesigned based on feedback from the community that makes it easier to post comments in the right places.
Another innovation contributing to Symphony's success is the agile development process IBM developers are employing in the construction of Symphony. In agile development, teams of software experts work around the clock and in Symphony's case, around the world, to improve the product in a continuous cycle that results in users seeing better technology faster.
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 born in just eight weeks, with users at the controls and a very agile development team.
While the core of the Lotus Symphony development team is in China, IBM also has engineers, IT architects and operations personnel worldwide who support it among IBM's Open Document Format initiatives.
IBM joined OpenOffice.org on 10 September, initially contributing software code for human accessibility before launching Lotus Symphony on September 18. Due to the strong market response of Symphony, IBM is doubling its global resources on Symphony, which includes increasing the development team to more than 70 software programmers.