SAN FRANCISCO—Microsoft Corp., reaffirming its commitment to developing applications for Mac OS X, on Tuesday launched a new version of its Office productivity suite and an update to its Virtual PC emulation software during the Macworld Conference & Expo here.
Both Office 2004 for Mac and Virtual PC for Mac Version 7 are set to ship in the first half of this year and are part of a roadmap through 2007 of Mac products to come from Microsofts Macintosh Business Unit, said Tim McDonough, director of marketing for the unit, during an interview with eWEEK.com.
Office 2004 for Mac is Microsofts second Mac OS X-native Office version, following the release of Office v. X for Mac two years ago. The software was demonstrated here at Apple Computer Inc. CEO Steve Jobs keynote address.
In the latest release, Microsoft has focused on new features for organizing and sharing information across the suite of productivity applications—Word 2004 for word processing; Excel 2004 for spreadsheets; PowerPoint 2004 for presentations; Entourage 2004 for e-mail, contacts and calendaring; and MSN Messenger Version 4.0 for instant messaging.
A new project-management feature in Entourage 2004 called Project Center will let users organize the e-mails, documents, task lists, contacts and meetings associated with a specific project. Snapshots of the Project Center also can be viewed throughout other Office applications, McDonough said.
In Word 2004, users will gain a new way to take notes with the Word Notebook Layout View. Appearing as ruled notebook paper, the view will let users flag and search information in notes, add images, create Entourage tasks and record audio that is then synced with the notes for playback.
Excel 2004 will gain a new Page Layout View, where users can view a spreadsheet as it would appear when printed and automatically reformat a spreadsheet to fit a printed page.
Across the Office 2004 for Mac suite, a feature called Scrapbook will store frequently used text, images, logos and files in a palette for quick access. Users also will be able to check on the cross-platform compatibility of specific documents using the Compatibility Reports feature. It can determine and fix the discrepancies that would appear in a specific document from one version of an Office application to another and between Mac and Windows versions, McDonough said.
“Its a great way to get absolute control over the documents you are sending,” he said.
Still missing from Office for Mac is a client specifically for the Exchange server, widely used in enterprises. Microsoft stopped developing its Outlook client for Mac with Outlook 2001.
McDonough said that Office 2004 for Mac would improve connectivity with Exchange but declined to offer details. Currently, Entourage users can send and receive e-mail from Exchange, browse its global address book and view schedules, he said.
A limited beta for Office 2004 for Mac, now in testing, should begin in the next month or two, McDonough said. Expected in the spring, Office 2004 will be available in three versions: a standard edition with the five apps, a discounted student and teacher edition, and a professional edition that includes Virtual PC for Mac Version 7.
The upgraded Virtual PC for Mac, which lets Mac users run Windows software and devices, is set to support Apples Mac G5 processor as well as include performance and usability improvements. McDonough declined to specify the new features coming in the Version 7 release.
Version 7 will be Microsofts second release of Virtual PC for Mac since it acquired the product from Connectix Corp. in February 2003.
During the keynote address, Microsoft Mac Business Unit officials took pains to persuade attendees that the company was solidly backing Apples Mac platform and OS X.
Microsoft last summer stopped development of its Internet Explorer for Mac after Apple Computer Inc. released its Safari browser for Mac OS X; nevertheless, McDonough said the move did not damage the companies relationship. Microsoft already has begun conducting research for its follow-on release to Office 2004 for Mac, McDonough said.
“Our relationship has been getting better all the way through our decision to stop producing Internet Explorer for the Mac,” he said. “In the Mac space, people think Microsoft and say, Where is the conspiracy? There really isnt one if you look at our actions.”
Editors Note: This story was updated with new information about the scope of Microsofts beta testing program.