Microsoft Prepares Next-Gen Apps for Mac

The PC company's Mac Business Unit is following up Apple's switch to Intel-based processors with new versions of Office and Virtual PC.

When Apple Computer announced Monday it was switching to Intel-based processors, one of the first to express support was Roz Ho, general manager of Microsofts Macintosh Business Unit.

The Mac BU has already started work on developing products to back up that attitude of support, according to a Microsoft spokesperson. Some of the primary projects are the next versions of Office for Mac and Virtual PC for Mac.

In order to create software that can accommodate the platform shift, the Mac BU has been collaborating with Apple engineers on Xcode to create universal binaries of future versions of Office, so that it will run natively on Apples future hardware.

Xcode, now in version 2.0, was created as a way for developers to craft Mac OS X applications and take advantage of Apple technology as it got released. Xcode 2.0 puts the operating system together with Unix as well as with a number of development technologies.

Historically, the Mac BU hasnt been known to use Xcode, but the platform shift will give the unit more exposure to and experience with the development tool suite.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more here about what Apples switch to Intel processors for developers.

Microsofts Mac team is also busy putting finishing touches on updates to current versions, the company spokesperson said. These include Entourage improvements for Exchange users, new Tiger functionality, and a fresh version of Messenger for Mac due to be released in a few months.

Although the Mac BU is in the thick of development work, some analysts predict that there probably wont be major, surprising changes in the Microsoft team or its products due to the Apple processor switch.

"It should take some time to see any big development changes," said IDC analyst Roger Kay. "But one interesting thing to watch will be whether Apples platform will begin to make inroads into Microsofts market because of this. At that point, it would be like the old days of platform versus platform. Then youd see major shifts in the Mac BU."

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about Apples decision to move to Intel-based processors.

While observers watch for such possibilities, it is likely that smaller changes are likely to crop up during the next year and beyond.

One such transition could involve Virtual PC, noted Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg. The application is currently used by those who want to emulate a Windows environment on a Mac machine.

With a platform that can support both systems, there might be little need for the application. As Gartenberg said, "Why would you want to emulate Windows when you can have the real version?"

In general, it is probable that the platform shift will bring positive change to Apple, its customers and the Mac BU, Gartenberg added.

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