Sunday, 29 January 2012

Move over Google Docs, IBM’s back in the game!

Over the years, Microsoft has controlled the Office market – with Word and Excel being used everyday by millions of people. Even schools are teaching children to copy and paste etc using the familiar Microsoft products that they most likely also use at home.

People may fondly remember WordPerfect or VisiCalc, or may have tried OpenOffice and other alternatives to Microsoft, but for most organizations, the de facto standard has been MS Office.

And then, as the world became aware of cloud computing, those freethinkers at Google gave us GoogleDocs – an online equivalent for the basic Office functions. And the big advantage was that you could access your files from whichever computer you were on (provided you had Internet connectivity). There was no excuse about bringing the wrong memory stick and not having a copy of the document. I use the GoogleDoc plug-in to Office so that my files are stored in the cloud in case I need something at a client’s site.

Of course, Microsoft also has a cloud-based version of its Office suite called Microsoft Office 365.

But now IBM has thrown its hat in the ring. It has announced the beta of IBM Docs, which is tied into its SmartCloud for Social Business Suite. So how does IBM hit the ground running with its own Office suite? Well, it got its hands on Lotus Smartsuite in 1995, when it also got Lotus Notes.

IBM Docs allows organizations to collaborate on word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. The plan is that there will only be a Web-based solution – no need for any browser plug-ins. In addition, its LotusLive has been rebadged as SmartCloud for Social Business. This provides users with easy access to social networking, file sharing, meetings, e-mail, calendars, and instant messaging.

The Web site at says: “IBM Docs is a new office productivity suite for working on documents, spreadsheets and presentations – together – in the cloud. With IBM Docs there is no desktop software. You only need a browser and an account, and you are able to easily create professional looking documents and share them with others. IBM Docs is simple yet powerful – letting you get started quickly, but delivering the advanced features you need. 

Once you’ve signed up, you can create and share documents, you can comment on documents, and you can assign parts of documents to teams to complete. In effect, everything you would look for in a cloud-based Office equivalent. Does it provide workflow features like Microsoft’s SharePoint? I don’t know the answer to that yet.

Will it work? It will be interesting to see. The linking with social networking is something that many enterprise organisations will find beneficial. There’s certainly room for another heavyweight to enter the fray. And it should be beneficial for us users if the big players offer more-and-more facilities for us to use as a way of keeping our interest and our business.

I’m sure we’ll be getting far more information about this initiative (and it is still in beta), but I thought it was worth noting now. Personally, I’d like to see a cloud version of the Adobe suite – InDesign, PhotoShop, Dreamweaver, etc.

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