That time frame is for the U.S. version, the company said, with international versions available "in the first quarter of 2008."
This marks a significant delay in Microsofts flagship Mac product, and means that Microsoft will be the last major Mac developer to migrate its products to Intel-native versions. The current Office product for the Mac, Office 2004, has to run in Apples Rosetta emulation environment on Intel-based Macs. Apple began transitioning away from its PowerPC-based Mac line in January 2006.
The new target delivery date puts Office 2008 for the Mac close to the scheduled Feb. 27 launch of Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008, which Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., is describing as the largest group product launch in its history.
In an e-mail to members of the press, Macintosh Business Unit General Manager Craig Eisler said, "Were successfully driving toward our internal goal to RTM in mid-December 2007, and believe our customers will be very pleased with the finished product."
Despite Eislers stress on quality, others see this delay as a serious sign for Microsoft.
"Its kind of outrageous," said Michael D. Gartenberg, a vice president and research director at JupiterResearch. "This is a company that has been shipping Mac software since 1984."
Gartenberg said, "We have to ask: what went wrong? … It sort of underscores the state of the Mac at Microsoft—its not a strategic or necessary goal," although, he added, there is a good level of revenue associated with the Office for Mac product line.
Still, he said, "from an Apple perspective, this is not necessarily a big deal." He noted that Mac users requiring compatibility with Office 2007, the latest version of the software suite on the Windows side, could run Office 2007 itself through virtualization or Apples Boot Camp dual-boot feature. And if they do, Gartenberg said, Microsoft would receive the added benefit of selling another Windows license.
"This may have a lot more Mac users looking at alternatives" to Microsoft Office, Gartenberg said, such as free suites such as OpenOffice or even Apples own iWork.
"Its not like Office 2007 is taking the world by storm," he said. "And at the end of the day, theres nothing wrong with Office 2004."