IBM retunes Symphony beta

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IBM has released the second beta version of its Symphony office suite..

The free suite is Big Blue's entry into the range of products based on the Open Document Format (ODF).

ODF is a rival to Microsoft's OpenXML in the fight to establish a standardised format for documents.

The second Symphony beta focuses on speeding up performance, according to Mike Rhodin, general manager of IBM's Lotus Software and Collaboration units.

Rhodin said that the improvements include faster loading speeds, user interface tweaks and a bevy of bug fixes. The update provides the second chapter of what Rhodin termed the "burn-in period" for the free suite.

"We expected that the first couple of betas would be downloaded by people that are kicking the tires," he said. "The primary goal is to get good feedback from as wide a base as we can."

This base has proved to be wider than IBM had imagined. More than half of all downloads for the English-only suite have come from outside the US, led by users in France, Canada and Brazil.

IBM is planning to translate Symphony into 23 languages when the third beta is released around the end of the year.

Rhodin explained that the unexpectedly wide adoption of Symphony had inadvertently helped Big Blue to avoid a potential legal issue.

Many users had been re-posting the Symphony install package to other sites for download, which is forbidden in the first draft of the licensing agreement.

After seeing how the suite was being spread, IBM decided to change the agreement to allow users to redistribute the software.

This provision will be continued in the final releases of Symphony, which Rhodin vowed will remain free.

"You can only charge for certain technologies for so many decades," he said. "These tools ought to go the way of the calculator on the Windows desktop."
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