NEW YORK (07/19/2000) - Microsoft Corp. took advantage of the annual Macworld show here to announce that its Office 2001 Macintosh Edition, now in beta testing, will be released in October. Designed to have a more Mac-like look and feel, the new version of Office also works better with other Mac software applications, according to company officials.
Microsoft also officially unveiled the name of its new PIM (personal information manager) -- codenamed "Alpaca," the release version will be called "Entourage."
The October release of Office will be for the Mac OS 8 and OS 9 operating systems, and according to Glenn Myers, lead product manager at Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit, the software will work as a "classic" application on the forthcoming Mac OS X, expected out early next year.
Microsoft officials avoided setting a specific timeline for the release of a Mac OS X version of Office, though they earlier had said they expected to release such a version in mid-2001. Many of the new product's features were highlighted by Microsoft when the beta version was unveiled last month. [See "Microsoft Unveils a New Office for Macintosh," June 15.]"Right now, we're focused on getting Office 2001 for the Mac out in October," said Mary Rose Becker, group product manager for the Mac business unit.
Keeping in mind that Mac fans might look askance at a product that too closely resembles its Windows cousin, Office 2001 sports redesigned and simplified toolbars and icons, and dialog boxes that have been revamped to work better with the Mac OS Appearance Manager, Myers said.
In an effort to have the suite work better with other Mac applications, Microsoft has revamped the product so that it's able to drag and drop FileMaker Pro files directly from the application into Office, without having to first save them in non-FileMaker format, Myers said. In addition, QuickTime transition effects can now be integrated into PowerPoint slide show presentations. Presentations also can now be saved as QuickTime movies and opened by any application that supports QuickTime, he added.
New features include a "My Identity" capability for users that share a Mac. The My Identity features are designed to eliminate the need to re-enter personal identification when logging on by enabling each Office 2001 application to recognize a current user and automatically enter personal information. This eliminates the need, for example, for a user to re-enter their personal data every time they start a letter or work on a project management template.
The new Entourage PIM application features a variety of ways to access and input information, allowing users, for example, to obtain contact information from the Entourage 2001 Address Book directly from Word 2001's Contacts toolbar.
In designing Office for the Mac, however, Microsoft also has to be mindful that most of its Mac users work closely with Windows users, pointed out Becker.
Surveys show that 86 percent of Mac users exchange files daily with people using Windows-based PCs, she noted. With this in mind, Microsoft has redesigned the way Mac users can save files they want to send to Windows users. For example, a check-box can attach the proper Windows file extension to a file, so that a Windows application knows how to read it. Entourage 2001's Smart Attachments also includes the option to append Windows file extensions to outgoing documents.
Pricing was not specified. Current Office for the Mac suggested retail pricing is US$499 for new users or $299 for upgrading users.
One question facing users wondering whether to upgrade is whether to wait another nine months or so until the version for Mac OS X comes out -- assuming Microsoft will issue the Mac OS X release in mid-2001. Microsoft officials would not offer sales target figures, but did say about 2.5 million copies of Office 98 for the Mac have been sold so far.
Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080 or at http://www.microsoft.com/.