IBM will ship the next version of its free Symphony productivity suite, codenamed Vienna, before the end of June and then follow it up with two more versions by March 2011 that include a laundry list of new features.

A beta of Vienna will be made available at next week's Lotusphere conference. During the next 12 months IBM/Lotus will release two more new versions, codenamed Amsterdam and Berlin.

Vienna will move the suite onto the 3.x code base and will include support for the Open Document Format 1.2, support for OLE objects and VBA macros, and signed plugins.

In addition Lotus will provide an add-on installer for Notes, enhance existing import features in Symphony for Office 2007, add new charts capabilities, graphic objects rendering, and richer Java and LotusScript APIs. Vienna also continues support for the .docx format that was at the heart of the i4i patent infringement suit against Microsoft.

Vienna, which will officially be called Symphony 2.0 when it ships, also will feature nested tables and multi-page display in the Documents application, an increase to 1,024 in the maximum number of columns allowed for the Spreadsheet program, and multi-monitor support and audio/video support in the Presentation application. Those three applications make up the Symphony suite, which Lotus touts as a cost effective alternative to Microsoft Office and Google Docs.

IBM/Lotus plans to follow-up Vienna with a "feature enablement and maintenance" update code-named Amsterdam by the end of September. The release will further refine VBA macros and Office 2007 support and include document filters for the HTML file format. The release also will include enhancements to APIs for presentation and documents, templates for business content, and central management tweaks centered on preference, policy and deployment.

In the first half of 2011, IBM/Lotus will again update the Symphony suite with more VB macro enhancements, improve links to other Lotus software such as Foundations and Connections, and add more API enhancements.

Also at Lotusphere, IBM/Lotus will announce Lotus Next Connections, the next version of its suite of social networking tools. Symphony is available for Mac, Windows, Ubuntu Linux, Red Hat Linux and SUSE Linux. The suite is available for free from the IBM website. IBM offers flat-fee support contracts to large corporate users for $26,000 per year.