IBM: Most Symphony users are Microsoft customers

IBM released beta 2 of its Symphony office suite and claims 88 percent of users are Microsoft customers.

IBM released the second beta of its Symphony rival suite to Microsoft Office this week, claiming that 88 percent of its users are Microsoft customers.

Symphony is now in a beta 2 release, with improved performance, access and ease of use, the company said. IBM also released some statistics about people who are downloading and theoretically using the software, which is a document-creation and editing suite based on OpenOffice.org.

Symphony is currently only available in English, but IBM said more than 50 percent of Symphony users are outside of the US, including what it said is a "sizable" group of users in Brazil and France. The top 10 nations in terms of download are the US, France, Canada, Brazil, Japan, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, India and Italy. About 12 percent of Symphony users are deploying it on Linux, the company said.

IBM also said it is promoting Symphony via demonstration videos on the popular YouTube video-sharing site.

IBM released Symphony in September as a free rival to Office and the company now claims that there are more than 250,000 users. The software is comprised of Lotus Symphony Documents, Lotus Symphony Spreadsheets and Lotus Symphony Presentations, a suite already included as part of Lotus Notes 8.

Though Microsoft users are indeed kicking the tires of Symphony, they don't seem to be swearing off of Office just yet. Pierre Avignon, an independent project manager in West Newbury, Massachusetts, said he's been using Symphony's spreadsheet application, but still keeps a copy of Office on his computer and uses both for document creation.

Avignon said he prefers to use Symphony Spreadsheets for creating basic budgets for projects and other tasks that don't require heavy lifting. He said he'd still consider Excel for more complicated spreadsheets, such as those he wants to include in PowerPoint presentations.

Avignon also noted that since he works mainly with nonprofits, he finds that many people don't have Microsoft Office on their computers because of its cost. But because Symphony is a free application, people can easily download it so they can open a file he creates in Symphony Spreadsheets, Avignon said.

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