Microsoft: Office for Mac 2011 SP1 On the Way

Microsoft is planning to release Service Pack 1 for Office for Mac 2011 next week, with improved syncing support.

Microsoft is planning on releasing its first service pack for Office for Mac 2011 the week of April 11. According to an April 6 posting on Microsoft's Office For Mac blog, Service Pack 1 (SP1) will offer "increased stability, security, and some new features to the suite," including improved Outlook syncing support.

Once Office for Mac 2011 supports syncing between Apple Sync Services and Outlook for Mac, users will be able to sync their Outlook calendar, notes, contacts and tasks with any device supporting Apple's Sync Services, including the iPhone and iPad.

However, those syncing their iPhone or iPad calendars with the new version of Apple's MobileMe cannot sync with the Outlook 2011 SP1 calendar, something the posting attributes to "the broken link between MobileMe and Sync Services." However, Outlook will remain capable of syncing MobileMe Mail via IMAP, as well as Contacts and Notes.

"We know we have more work to do, specifically around better integration with additional services," Pat Fox, senior director of Office's Product Management Group, wrote in the posting. "We recognize that for some of you these are an important part of your workflow, but we don't have any information to share on potential future updates."

He also called out Office for Mac 2011's newfound support (with the Service Pack) for Exchange-based server-side rules, an Outlook Redirect button that redirects messages to intended recipients, Outlook editing of existing messages, the Outlook Resend button, and "Solver integration support in Excel."

Microsoft originally released Office for Mac 2011 in October 2010. For the first time, the Mac version of Microsoft's productivity software included Outlook for Mac, in addition to the old stalwarts of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Messenger.

Tweaks to those productivity platforms included the Office "ribbon" interface, imported from the PC version, and support for SkyDrive and SharePoint 2007 as file storage. Office 2011 also features Visual Basic for Applications, which was excluded from Office 2008.

Although Office has long held a dominant position in the productivity-software realm, it faces the prospect of increased competition from cloud-based services such as Google Apps. In a bid to counter this, Microsoft is pushing hard on Office 365, a cloud-based platform that allows organizations to stay up-to-date with the latest versions of Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online. Whether this "Office-in-the-cloud" model can take off in the same way as the original desktop version, though, remains to be seen.