Microsoft on Thursday began shipping a promotional software package for Apple's latest operating system that includes fewer and simpler versions of the programs included in its popular office productivity suite, Office 2001 for Mac.
The software package, called Word + Entourage 2001 Special Edition, is a Mac equivalent to the lower priced Microsoft Works software suite for Windows. It comes amid growing anticipation over the release of Microsoft's Office 10 for Macs, a software suite that will borrow features from the recently released Office XP for Windows. Consumers who purchase Word + Entourage 2001 Special Edition, which includes Microsoft's word processing Word application and Mac-only e-mail software, will be able to upgrade to Office 10 for Macs for US$149 when it is released sometime in the third quarter.
Apple released its newest operating system, Mac OS X, in March and began shipping it on all of its desktop and laptop computers in May. Apple has made concerted efforts to meet its deadline with the new operating system, actually shipping boxed versions and preinstalled versions of the software ahead of schedule.
Microsoft may be following Apple's lead with its own earlier than expected shipment, said Rob Enderle, an analyst with Giga Information Group Inc. The company said in January at the Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco that it expected to have its first Mac OS X applications available in the third quarter of 2001.
"Typically Microsoft issues the Office copy for the Mac after they offer it for the PC," Enderle said. "It always lags by about a year."
But Office 10 for the Mac OS X -- Microsoft's answer to its recently released Office XP productivity suite -- is expected to be released only five or six months after its PC release, according to Kevin Browne, general manager of Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit.
In the meantime, Microsoft is still banking on its Office 2001 productivity suite to drive sales. That software package -- the best selling of its kind, according to Enderle -- was released in October of last year, and also came with a $149 upgrade to the next planned version. It includes Excel and Powerpoint, in addition to Word and Entourage.
The estimated cost for a normal upgrade to Office 10 for Mac is about $299, Microsoft said. Other pricing has not been made available yet.
While many of the features will be the same for both operating systems, the Mac version of the small bundle of office productivity software includes the Entourage e-mail software and other Mac-only features. It will run on the Mac's operating system version 8.1 and higher.
Word + Entourage 2001 Special Edition does not offer support for synchronization with Palm Inc.'s handhelds, and a few other features such as toolbar customization and access to business templates, Microsoft said. Those features were left out to cut down on cost.
In addition to an English-language version of Word + Entourage 2001 SE, Microsoft said it will release a French version on Aug. 6.