No New Mac Office?

July 19th, 2012

You can say that Office 2011 for the Mac has been a mixed bag, which isn’t unusual for a Microsoft release. After several fixes, Outlook 2011, the replacement for the Entourage email/contact manager, has become reasonably usable for most people. But full compatibility with Lion is still an unfulfilled promise, even though we are days away from the release of Mountain Lion. Yes, support for full-screen mode is a plus, but that’s not even lip service.

This week, Microsoft released a public beta of Office 2013 for Windows. The reviews are decidedly mixed, with Microsoft adding token support for gestures and Windows 8, but otherwise retaining essentially the same busy look and feel of the previous version. As with Windows 8, it’s a schizophrenic environment that works better on a traditional PC.

But why bother to upgrade in the first place? Because of some compelling new features that will boost your workflow? Not really. Because of half-hearted support for a touchscreen? Definitely not!

So what about the Mac version? Well, it doesn’t appear as if Microsoft is ready to announce a successor to Office 2011. So what will be supported? Here’s what Microsoft has to say on the subject:

When the new Office launches, we’ll deliver an update for Office for Mac 2011. With this update, Office for Mac licenses can count as part of your Office 365 Home Premium subscription. You will be able to use SkyDrive and/or Office 365 to save and access all your documents from your Mac. Note that we’ve not announced any branding for future versions of Office for Mac.

But it’s not so simple. There’s yet another published report stating that consumers and businesses will still have to purchase Office 2011 separately, that it will not count as part of an Office 365 Home Premium subscription after all. I suppose, when Microsoft figures out what’s really going on, they’ll let us know.

Meantime, it’s fair to say that Mac users shouldn’t lose sleep over a Lion or Mountain Lion update for Office 2011. Documents will probably still be compatible with the Windows version, and might as well let Windows 8 users, however many there will be, figure out how to cope with a disorganized interface that will result in lots of support issues and the need for retraining.

This isn’t to say that Office for the Mac is necessarily a lost cause. Microsoft could, I suppose, deliver a couple of minor feature updates without delivering a major new version, an Office 2013 or 2014. It may also be that there will be an Office 2014 in our future.

The other lingering question is whether Microsoft is really working on an iPad version. There were published reports about that one a while back, along with some supposed mockups of the possible interface, though I do not know how real they were.

But Microsoft denied that such a version is being developed. Perhaps they are hoping that customers will flock to the Surface tablet, because both the ARM and Intel versions will include a version of Office. Should the Surface really see the light of day, that could be a key selling factor, a way to attract business customers to Microsoft’s tablet.

On the other hand, if the Surface never appears, or is, like Microsoft’s other mobile initiatives, an abject failure, I suppose they could build an iOS version as a possible revenue builder. I suppose Microsoft could even build a version for Android tablets, although there there’s still no viable app platform for those products, since they sell so poorly.

But whether or not there is a new version of Mac Office isn’t terribly important, so long as the current version continues to sell in reasonable numbers. Microsoft has larger problems, such as coping with the possibility that Windows 8 will not do so well, particularly in the business market. What’s more, if Windows Phone 8 gear does as badly as previous Windows Phone products, Microsoft may lose whatever opportunity is left to become relevant in the mobile space. At one time, Microsoft regarded the Mac OS as mostly an asterisk (by hill at tforge corp). That may accurately apply to Windows Phone products if things get any worse.

Also, you have to wonder whether people would buy a Microsoft product because of Office. There’s nothing wrong with current versions, and no compelling reason to upgrade. Microsoft may have to depend more and more on new user licenses, but that market is saturated. More and more customers are considering other alternatives, such as staying with the existing versions of Office, using Google Docs are or of the other free or low-cost Office alternatives.

On the Mac and iOS, more and more people find that the iWork combo of Pages, Keynote and Numbers may deliver all or most of the features they expect from an office productivity suite. On the Mac, you can also choose from several other compelling word processors, such as two versions of Nisus Writer and Mellel. When it comes to email, Apple Mail may fulfill most of your needs, even for people who must connect to a Microsoft Exchange Server. Yes, Outlook may have more features, but it’s up to the individual which ones they need, and whether they see the need to buy something to replace what they get free.

In the end, maybe there will be a new Mac Office one of these days. But does anyone really care?

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9 Responses to “No New Mac Office?”

  1. tz says:

    IMHO Microsoft office was mature technology years ago, not needing any improvement. They keep messing with it to stimulate sales.
    Open office is entirely up to my needs, and the familiar control layout is great.
    Numbers is a fail for me. I have worked a good number of hours with it and it lacks capabilities I need, has hard to comprehend protocols, and the controls are not intuitive, in my experience, it is Apple’s worst software product.
    It increasingly looks like Microsoft is milking its office dominance for ongoing revenue generation, and they are clearly risking milking it dry.

  2. John Davis says:

    Something tells me Ballmer’s in a hissy fit about iPhones and iPads.

    “Apple envy!”

    Haven’t used Office in years. Up to Version 5.1, it was good software. Now? No, bloated, expensive, there are many apps that do a better job.

  3. Jeff says:

    Unfortunately, for Microsoft anything for Office other than on a Windows platform seems to be low priority. I have to use Office products for work, and in Windows 7 they work as expected. Try getting consistent sync of Outlook meeting on either iOS or in the Mac version of Office and you’ll quickly find that meetings that show up on your PC aren’t anywhere to be found in other environments. This is especially a problem with recurring meeting that are moved. Don’t even get me started on the lackluster LiveMeeting integration in Mac Office, where I can’t even use my own computer microphone and speakers to host or participate in a meeting.

    I’m forced to boot up Parallels in order to launch Outlook in a dedicated Windows environment in order to get an accurate reading of my meetings for that day or to use LiveMeeting, even though I have Mac Office installed. Microsoft’s priority is selling Office for use in Windows.

  4. John B says:

    I’m currently using Office 2008 with no plans to update as long as it keeps running on the current Mac OS. Prior to that, we were using 2001-ish, and only upgraded because we needed some new licenses and got a multiple-license pack for a discount. Seriously, these days are there really any missing features in Office that people are clamoring for? I was satisfied with the capabilities for the past several versions now (I’m not an Office power user though).

  5. dfs says:

    There’s one new kind of Office I’d spring for in a second: if Microsoft were to put out an Office Lite. Its chief selling point would be less features, less controls, less of a bewildering, never-ending series of options the user has to fight through in order to get any work done. Give up all those stupid ribbons and go back to a menu command + keyboard equivalent interface, so that the user could see clean pages with a minimum of the clutter MS so dearly loves. Remember Word 5.1? That was hands down the best word processor the world has ever seen. If Microsoft would modernize the Office of that era just a little bit, primarily by rewriting it to run on contemporary processors and making Word able to handle Unicode and adding a Save as HTML feature (preferable one that wrote good clean code without all the proprietary MS garbage), they’d have a winner on their hands. By calling it Office Lite they could beat a retreat back to the good old days without losing face, and they’d eliminate something like fifteen years worth of crap, sludge, poor interface design, and slow operation. They’d have a real winner on their hands. And why not do it? After all, they still own the copyright to all that good stuff, right? If Office Lite ever goes on sale I’ll be very first in line to buy it.

  6. John Davis says:

    dfs – exactly!

    5.1 was good, after that 6.0 was where we parted company. It was unbelievably slow and crashed unpredictably all the time, taking my writing with it!

    Bean is pretty good and similar in many ways to Word 5.1. Pages is good, but needs a spit and a polish here and there, Scrivener is a great writing tool, as is MacJournal.

    Microsoft has ceased to be relevant.

    R I P

  7. dfs says:

    Of course I should have added that if MS were to put out an Office Lite such as I describe, I’d be eager to buy v. 1. But I’d never upgrade to v. 2, because by then MS would have figured out a way to louse it up.

  8. John Davis says:

    MS Version 1 software is Beta.

    The user is the unpaid beta tester.

    I’d skip one and get Version 2.

    That gives them a chance to get the (major) bugs out of it.

  9. Anush says:

    Hi there,I’m having prmlebos with a racing title for the Macintosh called “FlatOut 2 . When only partially into a level The audio completely cuts off? I’m running 10.7 with a fairly late iMac (mid-2010 edition). Under 10.6 I occasionally had the audio disappear, but nothing as bad as this! I really enjoy the game by the way I purchased this through the Apple Store.Would you be able to tell me if you’re aware that this is a problem?Under 10.6, the audio disappeared only if there was some other audio playing underneath the sound track of the game. But under 10.7 this audio consistently disappears.I bought this game through the Apple StoreAny help would certainly be appreciatedThank youMalcolm.

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