At the recently concluded Lotusphere 2012 in Florida, IBM executives gave me an exclusive preview of IBM Docs — a new product in the IBM SmartCloud for Social Business portfolio. IBM Docs is a new office productivity suite that includes a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software that all work in the cloud. As of now, there is no client or desktop edition of IBM Docs; IBM however continues to offer a client/desktop office productivity suite called LotusLive Symphony. IBM Docs is now in beta and you can experience it or contribute through a community initiative called Lotus Greenhouse (https://greenhouse.lotus.com)
IBM Docs allows organizations, both inside and outside the firewall, to simultaneously collaborate on word processing, spreadsheet and presentation documents in the cloud to improve productivity. Authors will be able to store and share documents in IBM SmartCloud, co-edit documents in real time or assign users sections of the document so they can work privately easing the management of multiple revisions from multiple authors in team-based documents. But haven’t we seen that in some product before? What’s the differentiator?
During an exclusive preview of IBM Docs, Jeanette Barlow, Product Manager, IBM said, “We are socially enabling the document process. We did not want to build just an editor. We wanted to create a solution that tackled the problems that arise when teams work together and collaborate on documents.”
We observed co-editing in real-time, the ability to assign sections in a document to different people and a more meaningful way to track versions and audit changes attributed to different users. IBM has a strong foothold in the enterprise space and Google Docs (which has been favoured by many organizations) may have some real competition soon! But we’ll have to watch out for IBM’s pricing details, and Google may have an advantage here. Google also has an established enterprise base for its Google Docs offering in India with organizations like India Infoline and Zensar Technologies using it extensively.
The desktop client has a Lotus Symphony codebase which is based on Apache OpenOffice. Barlow informed that IBM will eventually merge the Symphony code back into OpenOffice core. “But we are also building from the ground up, a browser-based Web solution,” said Barlow.
By the end of this year IBM will have both a rich client and also a cloud based solution for office productivity. The latter will be a Web-based solution based on HTML 5, and will not require browser plug-ins. So it would definitely be a draw for enterprises that just need basic editing and do not want to incur huge costs on client licenses. Collaboration and social features would be the big draw! That’s in line with IBM’s theme at Lotusphere 2012 — “Business. Made Social.”