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Lotus Symphony Sings New Cloud Tune

Back in the day, Lotus Symphony was supposed to be the ultimate suite. Lotus already had hit a home run with Lotus 1-2-3, written by Jonathan Sachs and Mitch Kapor (with inspiration from VisiCalc).

Lotus thought that if three functions were good, then five were better, and so Ray Ozzie wrote Symphony, which added a word processor and communications program, and then rewrote Lotus 1-2-3's spreadsheet, graphics and database.

Symphony bombed due to it being far too hard to use (couldn't the same be said for Notes and Groove?).

After IBM bought Lotus, they revived the Symphony brand. Symphony, like its long-gone MS-DOS predecessor, is a productivity suite.

In fact, I think IBM has done a dang good job maintaining the Lotus brand and moving the technology forward. I saw IBM change in the late '80s -- the blue suits and red ties were gone, polo shirts and hair that actually crept over the ears were in. Call me crazy, but I think IBM is kinda cool!

IBM even kept Lotusphere, a trade show similar to Tech-Ed. And it was here that IBM, er Lotus, announced a bevy of online services meant to compliment Symphony (echoes of Windows Live?).

LotusLive (echoes of Windows Live?) lets Symphony users work together on files in the cloud and store the same files there.  LotusLive isn't brand new, but is enhanced with a number of social networking features. For instance, the hosted e-mail is now integrated with key social sites. Hmm, sorta like the latest version of Outlook!

The big difference between Office and Symphony may not be in the features, which seem comparable, but in the price. Office costs and arm and half a leg. Symphony is free.

Are you a Lotus customer or an ex-customer? Share your feelings and memories at

Posted by Doug Barney on 02/02/2011 at 1:18 PM

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Reader Comments:

Wed, Feb 2, 2011 Phil San Antonio, Texas

I've been a Lotus 1-2-3 user since 1985, and i still use it for my day-to-day spreadsheet work! I only use Excel when I absolutely have to, for reasons of compatibility mostly. I have tried the new Lotus Symphony, and my one big disappointment was their dropping compatibility with 1-2-3 files in version 3. They claim it will be back in the future, but I doubt it. How can they effectively orphan their own files? If I was to use one of these free, open source office suites, I would use LibreOffice as it still opens my .123 files.

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