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  • Office for the Mac Delayed Except When it’s Not

    October 12th, 2006

    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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    8 Responses to “Office for the Mac Delayed Except When it’s Not”

    1. Jarod says:

      Who cares about Office anymore!

      I hope to God the rumors of Apple releasing an spreadsheet with Excel compatibility is true and that they actually release it for Windoze as well so that they completely obliterate micros—. 99% of people have NO NEED for the bloat/crap ware that Office is now and certainly not at the price those crooks sell it for!

    2. John Brave says:

      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.

      You don’t need to be a Microsoft hater to think that. You only need to think logically.

      Just look at their actions. Why doesn’t Office Mac have feature parity with the windows version? A simple example: Entourage doesn’t work like outlook with Exchange servers; why not? Microsoft created both and they have the full specs of the protocols; there is no technical excuse. Why is there no Access for the Mac?

      In businesses, most people have the impression that Macs don’t work as well as Windows machines because of these shortcomings. Due to Microsoft’s own actions and decisions, the mac perception in the office is inferior to Windows. If that isn’t marginalizing the Mac, I don’t know what is.

      They can’t simply not create office for the mac.

      First, they make too much money selling to mac users to do that.

      Second, if they drop Mac Office, then they’ll create a void that somebody would be able to fill and maybe make the Mac a legitimate business tool. They can’t risk that. They just keep the mac version up to date and has just enough features to kill any competitor while keeping the Mac a second class citizen in business.

      And by giving the Mac version some insignificant features that don’t exist in the Windows version, they blind the Mac media and mac users. Most people brag about Office for Mac is better than Office for Windows because of those simple features. But, is the Mac office really better? How can it be if it doesn’t do everything that Windows version does in a business setting?

      Think about it, by keeping Mac Office alive, they basically control the Mac’s destiny in business. Even Apple itself if not resisting much. Why no spreadsheet in iWork yet? it’s been couple of years so far. What about a database? How hard is it really to create an interface to the SQLite engine built into the OS?

      Microsoft’s strategy is nothing short of brilliant if you really think about it.

    3. Andrew says:

      I don’t consider Office for Mac to be inferior in any way to the Windows version, at least not in terms of the core applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook/Entourage). Where the Mac version falls down is in the additional components that Windows users can add. I don’t use Visio, Publisher or Project, but I know people who like them. There are excellent Mac equivalents from other companies that work well with Office. I use OmniGraffle and like it a lot more than Visio, which I tried on my PC and abandoned just as quickly. I do love OneNote, which I use on both standard and Tablet PCs, and find it more intuitive than Sticky Brain, which was my Mac solution for note-taking/organization.

      What is most important with Office is compatibility, and I really applaud Microsoft for sticking to its promise to maintain cross-platform compatibility. I run a small law firm and have three employees. The office manager and my associate use Macs, our paralegal uses Windows. I use Windows at work and Mac at home. What is most impressive is that everything works together seamlessly. My paralegal can create a complaint using Word for Windows’ excellent legal pleading wizard (no Mac equivalent), and then any of us can work with it on any computer, Mac or PC, with no reformatting required. This is the reason why products like OpenOffice are non-starters for us, and the reason why I wouldn’t switch to an Apple office suite if one were available. I won’t upgrade to Office 2007 for Windows until the Mac version is also released, and then will consider upgrading both platforms simultaneously. We do not yet have an Intel Mac in the house, so it is likely that until we add one that we will remain on Office 2003 for Windows and 2004 for Mac.

      As much as I’d like to bash Microsoft for dropping development of VIrtual PC (I use it on our two office Macs and on the Mac I have at home), I cannot complain at all about Office on either platform. Yes, its bloated and has many features that I’ll never use, but it also is consistent in its operation across platforms, is reasonably user friendly (I like Nisus better) and most importantly, it works. It doesn’t crash any more or less than other major applications, has excellent document recovery for when it does crash (I’ve not lost any data in over 3 years) and I don’t have to think about differences when I sit at either a Mac or a PC to get something done.

    4. dan says:

      Office for Mac is still not completely compatible w/ Office for Windows, as i receive Woeird files, created on Windows, that will crash Woeird, running on MacOS, just by opening the file. repeatedly, and w/o exception. my MacOS systems have 10.4.8 and all Apple updates and all Microsoft updates. these files open as they should, w/o crashing Woeird, running on Windows.

    5. John Davidson says:

      I remember when Word only existed on the mac and Windows was just a dream of those in Redmond. PowerPoint was built out of a product built to compete with More, which was a super outliner (in many senses of meaning).

      Today I still prefer to use Word on the mac, than in the Windows environment as the formatting appears to work correctly on the mac while appearing to be broken on Windows.

    6. stevew says:

      When you get down to the nitty gritty, Office for Mac is not so compatible with Office for Windows. Visual Basic is a complete mess in Office for the Mac and Microsoft has recently announced that it’s now officially dead with no alternative on the cards.

      There is no better way to leave mac users out in the cold.

      I can relate a real horror story that has no solution.

      I know someone that created a very complex Excel document that required cross platform compatibility. This was a mac user so the document was created in the Spanish version of Excel in Office v.X. There were a huge amount of headaches in reaching the cross platform goal (visual basic being the biggest – but not the only – headache). It took the best part of six months but the job was finished.

      Fast forward to Office 2004 and it was noted in horror that Office 2004 could not handle the document without throwing up a runtime error. This version of Office is in English. The document still works fine in the latest versions of Office for Windows (Spanish or English). Does that surprise anyone? Six months work wasted.

      I won’t go into the gory details, just say that nobody has been able to resolve this problem (and we’ve tried all the avenues).

      Part of the problem seems to be in the localisation of Office for Mac in Spanish. It appears that some real cowboy moves have gone on in that area (the Spanish localisation of the Windows version does not suffer the same problems). But let’s not blame localisation solely for this situation. Given the state of VB in Microsoft’s mac products, it’s a miracle they work at all!

      After starting to create an equally complex Excel document in Office 2004 and then making some modifications in a Spanish version of Office for Windows (just to test the waters), our worst fears were realised. When the document was opened on the Mac, 21 macros had been lost.

      This is a multi billion dollar company. This is an expensive Office Suite (even at educational prices). These types of problems just shouldn’t exist. Period. If compatibilty is only partial, then all the limits on what can and can’t be done should be clearly detailed somewhere (as opposed to hinted at through obscure technotes that are only available in English).

      The upshot of all this is the following:

      This person works in the educational department of a region with over 8,000,000 inhabitants. For over a year now, all new computers used in the department’s schools ship with Windows partitions and Linux partitions. It’s up the school to decide which system they use. The educational dept even has their own government backed flavour of Linux. Many training courses for the dept’s teachers now include Linux sessions.

      This sorry story of compatibility has left an anti-Microsoft taste in the mouth of that particular user who is now openly pushing for Linux adoption across the board (and this person is a mac user at home!). This is like a snowball and not even the might of Microsoft can stop it. Another, equally large region has already made the move to Linux (this one a couple of years ago) and more are on the cards.

      I have skimped on a lot of the details as this whole affair has been a weight around my neck for some time and have completely given up on Microsoft (and I’m not even the one who has been directly affected by this). I will not be purchasing Office 12 for mac so it doesn’t matter when it it will be released.

    7. Mike says:

      This adds nothing to the discussion, but the title of this article reminds me of the old joke: Q. How many Microsoft engineers does it take to change a light-bulb?
      A. None, they just make “dark” the standard.

    8. keyword says:

      How does OpenOffice match up for this kind of thing? It’s clunky under X11, but the native version’s being worked on.

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