Microsoft is announcing that Office for Mac 2011 will be available only in a 32-bit version upon its release later this year. That contrasts with Office 2010, Microsoft's latest productivity software for PCs, which features both 32-bit and 64-bit support. According to Microsoft, that sole 32-bit version for Macs is primarily the result of a timing issue.
"In Office 2011, we've made investments in better compatibility between Office for Mac and Windows Office, which is the largest request we receive from customers," Jake Hoelter, product unit manager for the Microsoft Macintosh Business Unit, wrote in a June 8 posting on Mac Mojo: The Office for Mac Team Blog. "Our work to increase compatibility means we haven't completed the transition of moving the entire user interface to Cocoa yet."
Because of that, Hoelter added, "and because Apple's frameworks require us to complete the move to Cocoa before we can build a 64-bit version, Office 2011 will be 32-bit only."
Hoelter suggested most users will hardly notice. "The largest difference between using a 32-bit and 64-bit version is the memory capacity available for your content," he wrote. "Most users with typical or even larger-than-average document content will not notice a difference in performance."
However, "where 64-bit can make a difference is for people working with huge amounts of data, such as those creating very large Excel files with data in millions of cells, or PowerPoint presentations with thousands of high-resolution images."
Despite the tech industry's gradual migration to 64-bit architecture, 32-bit continues to reign supreme in many contexts. A February posting on the Microsoft Office 2010 Engineering blog recommended that users of both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows PCs install the 32-bit version of Office 2010, "mainly due to compatibility with existing 32-bit controls, add-ins and VBA," unless they had the sort of intensive data needs that demanded 64-bit.
Office for Mac 2011 will include many of the features already present in Office 2010, according to earlier statements from Microsoft. Specifically, Office 2011 will allow Mac users to access their documents online through Office Web Apps, co-author documents with colleagues from different locations, and feature the ribbon, Microsoft's interface tool for the most recent versions of Office for PCs.
As part of the Office 2011 rollout, Microsoft also plans on replacing Entourage for Mac with a new version of Outlook for Mac. Eric Wilfrid, general manager for the Microsoft Macintosh Business Unit, wrote in an August 2009 statement that Outlook for Mac will include features such as "high-speed file-based database with support for backing up files with Time Machine and Spotlight searching" as well as information rights management.