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IBM Adds Widgets to Symphony Office Suite

IBM said on Thursday that the latest version of Lotus Symphony now includes support for a variety of popular widgets that let users access Google Gadgets, Lotus Sametime, a wide range of wikis and Microsoft's Sharepoint and MSN from within Symphony.

When IBM (NYSE: IBM) released Lotus Symphony 1.3 in June, it included support for Microsoft Office file formats as well as enhanced DataPilot Table for data mining and organization.

Since the first release of Symphony in 2007, IBM has positioned the free software suite as an alternative to Microsoft Office without the pricey annual licensing fees. It has continued to update the downloadable software at regular intervals, adding more functionality and compatibility with Microsoft's dominant applications.

Google Apps and OpenOffice.org are two of the more prominent competitors to both IBM and Microsoft in the so-called productivity software space.

This latest iteration lets users drag and drop widgets into Lotus Symphony. IBM developers say this feature distinguishes it from static office productivity tools such as Microsoft Word and that IBM and third-party developers, including independent software vendors, individual developers and customers, are writing a wide range of new widgets for Lotus Symphony.

"Today there are more innovative, open alternatives such as Symphony that compare favorably to Microsoft Office," said Bob Picciano, general manager, IBM Lotus Software, in a statement. "Symphony's open collaboration model can offer businesses limitless options cost-effectively at a time when many organizations are increasingly concerned about investing in Microsoft Office."

Lotus Symphony 1.3, based on the OpenDocument format (ODF), includes support for Microsoft Office 2007 file formats such as .docx, xlsx and .pptx, allowing most Office users to access and transfer data into Symphony.

IBM officials said the new team workspace widgets will let people access and share documents from Microsoft Sharepoint and Lotus Quickr. A new ChartShare widget enables the instant sharing of colleague's screen with up to 20 people during a presentation.