IBM Offers Symphony on Keepod USB Devices

IBM announced Tuesday that its free Lotus Symphony office productivity suite is now available on Keepods -- thin USB devices made by the Italian company NSEC.

Big Blue's Symphony suite is based on OpenOffice.org and includes word processing, spreadsheets and presentation creation. The new Keepod version, available through the Keepod store, employs VMware's ThinApp virtualization software, which wraps applications into an executable file that is isolated from a computer's operating system, mitigating compatibility and security concerns.

Keepods are roughly the size of a credit card and hold up to 16GB of data. Prices start at €19.90 (US$29.78) for a 2GB "Base" version. A 2GB Secure edition, which includes 256-bit AES hardware encryption, is priced at €69.

Although a USB deployment option could make Symphony attractive to more users, Microsoft retains an iron grip on the office productivity market. Eighty percent of respondents polled for a Forrester Research report earlier this year said their companies were using some form of Office, and 78.4 percent had no plans to deploy any alternatives.

IBM does not formally track Symphony installs but estimates about 10 million people are using the software, said product manager Jeanette Barlow.

Many companies are still in the tire-kicking stage, running pilot programs or deploying the software on a departmental level, she said.

The Keepod announcement comes in response to "a huge push from enterprise customers for supporting mobile workers," she said.

IBM expects interest in Symphony to jump significantly next year, when a new version based on the OpenOffice 3 codebase is released, according to Barlow.

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