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IBM offers free Microsoft Office rival

US computer giant IBM Corp. launched free downloadable software Tuesday to challenge Microsoft Corp.’s Office suite, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

The Lotus Symphony software -- with Symphony Documents, Symphony Spreadsheets and Symphony Presentations -- is available for download at , IBM said. The “enterprise-grade” software, which supports Windows and Linux desktops, is based on many of the same tools found in IBM’s pricey Lotus Notes 8 e-mail and instant-messaging collaboration software, the Armonk, N.Y., company said. The home edition of Microsoft’s Office lists for $120.

Symphony supports Microsoft Office and an internationally recognized information-display standard called the Open Document Format, IBM said. ODF’s stated aim is to let documents be read by multiple software applications, rather than requiring any one system. Microsoft had no immediate comment on Symphony. (m&