IBM to offer cloud office suite

IBM is preparing a version of its Lotus Symphony office suite for online use

Joining Microsoft, Oracle, Google and others, IBM plans to offer a cloud-based office suite, the company announced on Monday.

The company is in the process of developing a hosted version of its Lotus Symphony office suite, which it will fold into its LotusLive set of hosted business offerings, said Jeff Schick, IBM vice president of social software.

Online versions of Lotus Symphony's word processing, spreadsheets and presentation software should be available by the latter half of 2011.

The hosted version will offer a number of new features around online collaboration, Schick said. Users in different locations will be able to work on a single document at the same time. They can also add comments to a working document and manage revisions.

The hosted version will not be free, but instead will be a paid option within the company's LotusLive service, Schick said.

Lotus Symphony is an office productivity suite offered by IBM at no cost. It is based on the open source OpenOffice code base.

With this release, IBM is joining an increasingly crowded field of Web office productivity suites. In December, Oracle launched the first version of its own hosted office service, called Cloud Office. That version is based on OpenOffice as well. Microsoft offers consumers some basic online office document editing capability through its Office Web Apps service. It also has plans to roll this service into its enterprise-focused BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) set of hosted services as well.

The hosted Lotus Symphony news is one of a number of announcements that IBM has made at the Lotusphere conference, being held this week in Orlando.

The company also has released a tool for connecting social networking applications to enterprise applications, called the Social Business Framework. It also plans to announce that it has developed a number of new mobile clients for its Lotus Notes messaging suite.

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