A new bundle of online productivity suites from IBM, Adobe, and Google offers similar, if not the same, functionality as Microsoft Office, leading many to wonder whether the traditional workplace software is really threatened.

On Tuesday June 3rd, IBM officially rolled out its Lotus Symphony productivity suite in beta version, whereby users can download the applications from IBM’s cloud. A day earlier, Adobe made a similar venture with Acrobat.com.

IBM’s Lotus Symphony comes with open APIs that let the user create and add widgets and plug-ins to the basic applications using the company’s open-source Eclipse technology.

The open-source platform of Symphony lets businesses customize productivity applications to suit their needs, a vital component lacking in Microsoft Office.

Unlike its competitors, IBM does not need to rely on Symphony for revenue, giving it the freedom to make such changes and utilize its vast support network to further market its suite.

“We don’t need to make money the way other players do. We are interested in changing the market,” says Doug Heintzman, director of strategy for IBM collaboration.

Conversely, Adobe is looking to make revenue from charging for additional services in addition to the free applications.

“More free stuff is coming down the pike, but we will charge for adding features that are needed by work groups and corporations, adding things on an administrative level and beyond,” says Rick Treitman, Adobe’s entrepreneur in residence.

Recently, Google unveiled Google Apps—a similar online productivity suite the company hopes will cater to the business world.

It interconnects with Gmail and other online capabilities, and through such uniformity Google hopes its free service will entice businesses to make Google Apps their premier productivity suite.

With such applications moving online, Microsoft may be significantly rivaled, or it may just be a matter of time before they move Microsoft Office online.

By Danny Scuderi
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