Microsoft markets new Mac Office

Microsoft has announced its latest software offering for Apple Mac, dubbed Office:mac 2001.

The company is hoping the new Office program suite will emulate the success of its last Mac Office offering, Office 98, which sold around three million copies worldwide.

More than 200 people are involved in the software giant's Mac business unit in Redmond, making it the largest Mac development team outside of Apple. Office 2001 features a host of "Mac first" innovations aimed at bringing the programs more in line with Apple products.

"It is a continuation of the good relationship built up between the two companies in the past few years," said Apple's national computer sales manager, Martin Perrins.

"This product incorporates new features that are still to come on Windows versions and features that are exclusive to Apple."

Microsoft based its new software on three major design goals -- organising and communicating information, simplifying difficult tasks and making the software more "Mac-like" and compatible. To that end, Office:mac 2001 features a whole new mail application: Entourage 2001."It is really the hub of Office 2001," said marketing manager for Microsoft Australia, Drew Sharp.

Entourage features a preview pane and users can tag Window's file extensions along with attachments send via e-mail, to overcome compatibility problems. The program also includes a spelling wizard, drop down menus and a customs view facility and can synchronise with Palm handhelds and MSN hotmail.

Microsoft also claims Office:mac 2001 makes previously difficult tasks such as mail merging relatively simple. There is increased compatibility between 2001 and existing Mac applications. For example, users can now use a database from Filemaker Pro in a Word mail merge. Similarly, Powerpoint now supports Quicktime transitions.

"Even the packaging looks very iMac," Sharp said. "It is very radical for Microsoft. It is not in a box, it is not white, it is not cardboard -- we are trying to loosen up a bit."

Office 2001 will retail for $914 outright or $554 as an upgrade from Office 98.

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