What Microsoft Mac BU should have said

Microsoft faced a savaging after Wednesday’s announcement of “Art of Office“, a web site promoting the sharing of work created by Mac Office Users.

With most comments clearly frustrated at Microsoft creating new applications while the long awaited Mac Office 2008 is delayed Microsoft responded in typical style asking for patience and promising previews from September.

Perhaps I can offer an alternative posting, one which would have had a slightly more positive effect. Here goes my attempt at a Microsoft announcement spoof.

An Office 2008 Update

Here at the Mac Business Unit we’re excited to be releasing a few screenshots of what we’ve been working on, and a little explanation on why it has taken so long to get where we are today.

Firstly you will be aware that our last Mac Office release was before Apple moved it’s hardware to Intel processors. You will also be aware that our colleagues on Windows Office recently released their newest version to retail. Both of these developments have led to considerable upheaval for Mac Office.

Let me explain the end product first.

Gone is the old interface, in comes a clean, fresh one based on the functionality of Windows Office. Compatibility is very important to us, so pretty much everything in the Windows interface is here now on the Mac version. Additionally we have some further interface improvements now on Mac which will be making their way across to Windows in the future. We also believe that products on Mac should look and behave like other Mac products, so we’ve included a completely native interface too. Whichever way you want to work, just select the right interface for you.

Entourage, our Mac Office mail and communications application, is now fully compatible with the latest Exchange server. We use Exchange all the time and this was one of the most obvious requirements we heard from customers. It is done. Don’t worry, you can still use IMAP and POP 3 mail servers. RSS and ATOM support is also there. Pretty much everything you can do in the latest Windows Outlook can be done in Entourage.

Word for Mac has seen significant improvements too. No longer is it just a word processor, today it can create pretty awesome looking web pages with tabular data from Excel and interactivity provided by PowerPoint. Far more to be discussed soon.

PowerPoint now has modules that are no longer tied to PowerPoint. Think of creating a nice graphical interactive presentation then exporting as a series of web page fragments with Silverlight for rich user experiences.

And Excel? The basics are there and improved with larger spreadsheet support, more mathematical functions and far faster. More than that though new wizards allow you to create documents that serve common purposes far faster. As a specific example, the PivotTable system is now far easier to understand and use. The presentational aspects are also far improved.

Clearly the specifics of our improvements are to come, but I wanted to give at least a few clues on what to expect in 2008.

Now a little look at why things have taken so long.

With Apple hardware moving to Intel and Office being given a new release on Windows, the Mac Office and Windows Office groups got together early on to discuss compatibility and came to the conclusion that as far as technically possible our code should be one and the same. So today we announce that aside from required platform differences and “a few” improvements in the Mac Office over the Windows office, they are essentially the same.

What you do on one should be pretty much the same procedure as within the same application on the other platform. And it is almost all the time. The differences come mainly in areas like File Open / Save As. Integration with other non-Office applications has to be different of course but the important compatibility is there. The business logic that creates the XML for Windows Office applications is the same code as that used by Mac Office.

To achieve this level of compatibility required an unprecedented level of API work for the Mac BU. Our development staff worked with Windows Office counterparts to build API code for the Mac which Windows Office components required. You can say that some of the Windows OS APIs now run on the Mac too, although only those required to run Office. For performance reasons some of our Mac code is native, like display routines, and these are optimized for both Tiger and Leopard, just as our Windows edition has XP and Vista optimizations.

it’s by far the closest we can get for compatibilty reasons and the more technical amongst you will hopefully now understand and appreciate the timeframes we required and how we are so confident Mac Office 2008 will rock your world.

Right now we are feature-complete. Today until RTM we are testing and bug fixing, and documenting. And yes, some of our bugs are being fixed in both Mac and Windows Office together.

Moving forward releases of Office on each platform should be much closer together. Clearly being so close has additional advantages too. Here’s one: All the languages Windows Office supports are in Mac Office 2008 too. Full read/write compatibility between platforms together with backward compatibility as well.

We’re sorry it has been so long, but the we promise the wait will be worth it. Roll on with the feature previews from September.

Over To You

That’s my take on what Microsoft should have said through their blog. Specifics are a little difficult to come up with but you get the sentiment. Question is, are the specific things you’d like to see in Office 2008 aside from obvious compatibility?

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