Microsoft touts Mac-Windows collaboration

Promises program to simplify document sharing between the rival OSs.

Microsoft Tuesday said it would launch new Mac software later this year that will let Office 2008 for Mac users collaborate with people running the Windows version of the application suite.

The company made the announcement at the Macworld Conference & Expo, where Apple delivered the keynote for the last time, without CEO Steve Jobs, a longtime fixture at the event.

Document Collaboration Companion will be released to a small number of beta testers next month, said a Microsoft spokeswoman in an e-mail today. However, Microsoft would not commit to a definitive final release timetable, saying only that it would deliver the software "later this year."

The program will make it easier, said the spokeswoman, for users to download and upload documents to enterprise servers running SharePoint, Microsoft's browser-based collaboration platform, or to Office Live Workspaces , the free online service that offers similar functionality. Document Collaboration Companion also will provide Mac-based tools to let Office users check-in and check-out shared documents.

Microsoft touted the upcoming software, and a planned makeover of Entourage, the Office 2008 for Mac e-mail client, as its first moves toward providing some of the same kind of services to its Mac customers that those running Windows already enjoy.

"Entourage Exchange Web Services and the Document Collaboration Companion lets Mac Office users connect with counterparts on a PC," said Eric Wilfrid, the general manager of Microsoft's Mac business group, in a separate statement. "These releases are the first step in harnessing the power of software plus services on the Mac."

Entourage will also be beefed up this year, promised Microsoft, so that it's more equivalent to Outlook, the Windows e-mail client, in enterprises. As part of that upgrade, which Microsoft will offer free-of-charge later this year to Office 2008 users, it is transitioning Entourage to Exchange Web Services (EWS) for connecting to Exchange mail servers, and dropping the currently-supported WebDAV.

The changes will also include new support for synchronizing tasks, notes and categories in Entourage via an Exchange server.

A public beta for Entourage EWS will be released later this month, Microsoft said.

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