Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

A View from Erica Naone

The Lotusphere Gauntlet

IBM is talking tough about its competition.

  • January 21, 2008

At Lotusphere 2008 in Orlando, FL, on Monday morning, I watch Michael Rhodin, general manager of IBM’s Lotus division, pull a server out of an envelope. It’s a send-up of Apple CEO Steve Jobs’s keynote at Macworld Expo last week, where the Apple guru unveiled the ultrathin Macbook Air notebook computer by pulling it out of a manila envelope. But Rhodin is doing more than making a joke: the move reinforces a major theme of his presentation at the Lotusphere general session, where he has barraged the audience with a slew of rapid-fire announcements. Rhodin has been sending a message to the audience that the big players in tech aren’t limited to Jobs, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, and Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin. IBM, riding high off strong revenue growth at the end of 2007, is laying down some aggressive challenges to the likes of Microsoft.

IBM is upping the ante with Symphony, its free desktop productivity software. (See “IBM’s Symphony for the Office Worker.”) Kevin Cavanaugh, IBM’s VP of messaging and collaboration software, told the Lotusphere audience this morning that IBM has so far given away more than 400,000 downloads of Symphony, and that the company aims to “allow people to invest in innovation rather than spending money on commodity software”–a clear jab at Microsoft. Cavanaugh trumpeted Symphony’s ability to eliminate the need for customers to buy Office, and to allow them to substitute less-expensive Linux clients for Windows machines. IBM now plans to sally further into Microsoft territory by enabling users to develop applications through Symphony as well. “Symphony is an evolving, free alternative to the [Microsoft] .Net development environment,” Cavanaugh said.

These are only two examples of the mood pervading the announcements at Lotusphere. IBM thinks it’s on a roll, and the company is trying to ride the surge forward. At least at Lotusphere, these efforts are being met with ecstatic cheers from the audience. But IBM’s not alone in competing with some of Microsoft’s crown jewels: Google has also thrown its hat in the ring with the free, Web-based Google Docs. Adobe’s recent acquisition of the Web-based word processor Buzzword may become yet another challenge–one that could become more formidable if the company transforms Buzzword into a cleverly portable desktop application by means of its AIR technology. (See “To the Web and Back Again.”)

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Business Impact

How technology advances are changing the economy and providing new opportunities in many industries.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Basic.
  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.