As a very long time Mac user, there’s little to like about Microsoft—their business methods or their products. Except Office for Mac.
Will Office 2007 make it out before 2008? Barely. That’s the latest word from… Microsoft.
In a far ranging article in APC, David Flynn gets some details about Microsoft’s move to a native Intel version of the huge Office suite.
Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit, the MBU, has won kudos and congrats for making the Mac version of Office better than the Windows version.
That was then, this is now. The next version of Office for the Mac will take some features from the not-yet-released Windows suite.
Borrowed ideas is nothing new at Microsoft, whether their Windows division, Office division, and apparently the MBU, too.
It doesn’t matter. If, and it remains to be seen, if Office 2007 for Mac is better, faster, more features, fine by me.
I’m an unabashed Entourage fan, and it runs the heart of my business.
Fortunately, for Microsoft, Apple, and customers of both, Office 2004, the last version, runs fine on the new Intel Macs.
In fact, the latest iMac and MacPro machines are so fast that Office often runs better, faster than the native Office version on PPC Macs.
So, what does Microsoft have in store for the future Office 2007?
First, we find that Microsoft’s MBU development of Office usually trails the Windows version by six to eight months.
Hmmm. I don’t like the sound of that. The word on the street says that Windows Office would be out by January 2007.
Eight months after that puts Office 2007 for the Mac by fall of 2007. And that’s a maybe.
If you think Windows fans are anxious for Vista to hit the streets about three years late, consider that Mac Office 2007 will be nearly four years after the last version.
Second, the MBU is borrowing from the Windows version of Office. The highly touted “ribbon” gets mentioned as sure to hit the Mac, too.
More important, and certainly cause for delay, is that the Mac Office had to be rebuilt from scratch to be a more than Intel-friendly Universal Binary application.
I say, “more than Intel-friendly UB” because Office 2004 already performs well on Intel Macs.
Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit has over 130 developers working on the Mac version of Office.
Reports show that progress has been made, starting with getting Office’s millions of lines of code transferred to Apple’s Xcode.
It’s the UI, the user interface that developers are working on now, with an expected completion somewhere early in 2007.
What’s new in Office 2007 for the Mac? The controversial “Ribbon” feature borrowed from the Windows version of Office.
Office has always been criticized for being overly complex, and running dozens of difficult to find nested menus in the user interface.
The Ribbon was designed, re-designed, then designed again to make access to Office features easier to find.
Mac folks in the MBU plan to treat the UI in a Mac-like way, and adhere more closely to Apple’s user interface guidelines.
There are other issues at play, too, as Apple is expected to release Mac OS X Leopard before Office 2007 for the Mac.
That means more user interface issues, as Leopard is likely to present a slightly different look and feel when compared to Tiger.
Backwards file compatibility as well as full compatiblity with the Windows versions is important, and that manages to remain a key selling point of Office on the Mac.
The file formats for Office 2007 for Windows and Mac must be compatible, but they’re also undergoing dramatic changes in the marketplace.
Users are requesting file neutrality, and Microsoft is responding with a new XML file format. That should be fun. Well, maybe not fun. Interesting, perhaps.
New file formats are always cause for concern.
Keeping Word, Excel, and PowerPoint the same on the Mac as on Windows is a key objective.
How about my favorite, Entourage? No word from Microsoft executives or developers about changes in Entourage, but it could use some.
Entourage is an excellent application to manage contacts, projects, and tasks.
But it’s also part of a suite that hit the streets in 2004, was designed a couple of years prior to that, and it’s looking long in the tooth.
Very long. Comparing MarketCircle’s excellent Daylite to Entourage tells you something about the quality of other Mac applications and their ability to compete, even in Featureland, where Microsoft has always ruled.
There’s also rumblings that Microsoft’s popular OneNote would be moved to the Mac. That noise may be more from Windows users who like OneNote but use Macs as their personal computer.
There are many examples of performance issues with Mac Office 2004 running on new Intel Macs, using the Rosetta layer (which runs older applications made for PowerPC Macs).
Regardless, I’ll be one of the first in line for Office 2007, even if it’s six months after Leopard shows its spots.
What would get me to switch? Since so much of what I do requires full compatibility with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, there’s probably no incentive strong enough.
As to Entourage, I could be wowed by something Apple does with Mail and AddressBook and Calendar. For now, they don’t compete on the same level as Entourage for professional requirements.
Click Here for more details from Dan Flynn.
Do you use Office 2004 for Mac? Will you make the jump to a newer version for an Intel Mac?