IBM has designs on entering the already crowded office-suite market. But Big Blue won't do so on Microsoft's terms. Rather, the company is hoping to create a J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition)-based, developer-friendly set of important, though not comprehensive, productivity tools.
As much as I would prefer it not to be true, it's hard to beat Microsoft Office. Sun's StarOffice comes in a close second, and certainly the average user will find it more than acceptable as an alternative to Microsoft Office. But even with a lower price and generally equivalent functionality, StarOffice hasn't gained enough market share to make a dent in Redmond's pocketbook. So what is IBM thinking with its plans to introduce a "lite" office suite?
A server-side Java Office suite with a subset of Office functionality for more casual users is unlikely to be a hit anywhere. Does anyone remember Corel Office for Java? The casual user wants something that's quick to load and unburdened by unnecessary functionality. Although the latter may be provided by IBM's offering, the former is unlikely to become a reality, given the architecture and choice of language, not to mention IBM's propensity for building excruciatingly slow applications of all sizes.
IBM would do better to position such functionality for the development community. Offering the capability to include office functionality within Java applications would attract interest and be a boon to developers.