IBM is the latest company to throw its hat into the ring in an effort to compete with Microsoft for a share of the lucrative desktop productivity application market. Its plans are to offer office software from its Lotus Symphony suite for free. The suite contains word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software that is derived from the StarOffice system that Sun Microsystems bought eight years ago. The move is seen as a major boon to the open-source software movement, because IBM has a massive customer base and a long history that cannot help but add credibility.
Apple's new iWork '08 supports the Open XML specification that Microsoft is pushing as an international standard and also saves directly to Word files (though only in Word 2003 format), giving Apple a strong competitor to Microsoft Office for Mac users. Yahoo doesn't seem to want to be left behind, snapping up the Zimbra Office Suite, a browser-based package much like Google Docs, but with a "killer app" in its calendaring and messaging component. Google has also added to its documents offering, adding presentation software capable of reading and writing PowerPoint files for saving and presenting straight from the browser.
Computerworld: Hands-on with iWork '08 (MacWorld)
Google Introduces Presentation Application (Beta News)
I am personally a big fan of Google Docs and have used its spreadsheets and word processing offerings for quite some time. I haven't had the opportunity to use the new presentation software, but I have been impressed with Google's ability to provide 90+% of the functionality of Microsoft Office in a free, browser-based product. I also like the fact that you can write your presentation, save it online (not even having to trust a USB memory stick), and deliver it on any computer, even one without Microsoft Office. I don't see companies getting away from Office completely, at least not in the next few years, but more competition can only help drive down the price and increase the quality of office productivity suites in general.
What is your favorite non-Microsoft Office suite? Do you like iWork, Google Docs, StarOffice, OpenOffice, IBM Lotus Symphony, Zimbra, or some other suite?