For a product that’s not out yet, the next version of Microsoft Office for the Mac got a little contradictory publicity this week. First, you heard that release had been postponed until the second half of 2007. I suppose, with Microsoft’s well-known issues in getting Windows Vista out the door, you had to expect that the Mac version wouldn’t be immune to delays of its own.
On the other hand, it turns out that there was never a delay to begin with.
Now, I will not embarrass those who published this information, except to say that is indeed the shipping timeframe previously mentioned for the forthcoming Universal version, code-named Office 12. To put it more bluntly, here’s what Microsoft’s Sheridan Jones says on the subject in the Mac Mojo blog:
No, seriously, you don’t say (or shouldn’t), because it isn’t true. Over the last few days, some Mac sites have been reporting that the Universal Binary version of Office for Mac (officially unnamed, but currently code-named Office 12) has been delayed, but there is no delay or deviation from our development schedule. We’re hitting our milestones, checking in our features, and making the move to Intel as planned. We’ve totally moved from Code Warrior to Xcode, so we’ve crested that hill. We usually ship 6 – 8 months after the availability of Office for Windows so we can do compatibility testing. This has been our shipping cycle for ages, and we’re right on track. In fact, for Office 12, we’ve not even officially announced a launch date (but when we do, we should do it here first).
I don’t think the matter could be any more clear, although I suppose you would wish they could hurry up and get it done. But it’s also true that it’s extremely important that Mac and Windows users of Office require full file compatibility, so you don’t have to worry which platform you’re using.
On the other hand, Office 2004 seems to work pretty nicely in emulation mode on an Intel-based Mac. It may be a little tardy out of the starting gate, but once it gets going, it doesn’t really feel all that slow. Compatibility also seems pretty decent for a Microsoft application. In fact, it’s fair to say that the Mac version is probably superior to the Windows variant in usability, look and feel.
You could, of course, wish for more products from Microsoft for Mac users, such as an updated Windows Media Player to handle content you can’t view or hear right now. I mean fair is fair, but those decisions don’t come from the Mac Business Unit. If you’re a Microsoft hater, of course, you could complain they are trying to marginalize the Mac, but they also make a fair amount of money from the platform. And if there’s one thing Microsoft loves, it’s money.
Besides, if you examine the matter without any preconceptions, and that’s really hard when it comes to Microsoft, you have to admit that they sometimes do really good work. There is the Xbox, for example, which looks appropriately snazzy for a game console, and seems to have attracted a decent number of followers. Sure, Microsoft is apparently losing money on every unit sold, but that’s their problem, right?
I’m also a fan of Microsoft’s keyboards, especially the Wireless Comfort Keyboard for the Mac. I have always had difficulties with the so-called “ergonomic” models, which split the keyboard into discrete sections. The Comfort models follow a similar pattern in keyboard layout, but one less overt, and I’ve actually found it extremely smooth on the long haul. There are also far fewer aches and pains. Yes, I still take periodic breaks, but that’s just good practice regardless of what keyboard option you choose.
The software works pretty nicely too. All the features function smoothly, quickly, and I’ve found no evidence whatever of any conflicts with anything else I’m using, such as my Logitech MX Revolution mouse. The two input device drivers thankfully stay out of each other’s way.
Now I realize that some of you do have compatibility issues with Microsoft’s Mac products, and you will take your opportunity to comment on this article appropriately. But I have few complaints, and I look forward to the next version of Office for the Mac with great anticipation.
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