Microsoft: Office posterchild for Mac OS X

As the market awaits Apple Computer Inc.'s release of a tuned-up version of its new Mac OS X operating system, Microsoft Corp. Wednesday took the wraps off its desktop software applications that will run on that operating system.

The Redmond, Washington, software maker said it will release its Office productivity suite for Mac in November, about two months after Apple is expected to release Version 10.1 of Mac OS X. The suite of applications will include Word, Excel, Powerpoint and the e-mail management software Entourage.

The company also gave the Office product a new name Wednesday: Microsoft Office v. X for Mac.

Designed to match Apple's "Aqua" look -- the term used to describe the new colors and interface featured in the OS X operating system -- Microsoft said it expects the set of applications to set the tone for other third-party software to be released for Apple's operating system.

"It is literally the poster child for what an Mac OS X application should feel and look like," said Erik Ryan, a product manager with Microsoft's Mac group.

Microsoft previewed most of its Office for Mac desktop software suite -- known previously as Office 10 for Mac OS X -- at the MacWorld Expo in July. It announced new features during a presentation there, such as the addition of Microsoft's Messenger 2.1 instant messaging software and the latest Windows Media Player.

At the time, the company had yet to detail the improvements made to its e-mail management software, Entourage. Microsoft gave more details on that application Wednesday. Called Entourage X in its latest incarnation, Microsoft has altered the look and feel of the software to "increase the discovery of navigation tools," Ryan said.

New additions to Entourage include the ability to send HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) mail. That means users can cut and paste, or drag and drop picture files into the text of an e-mail. The new applications also give users the ability to "undo" multiple entries, whereas most Mac applications allow users to undo the last entry, Microsoft said.

Microsoft also made major changes to the calendar features in Entourage X, including added support for international users. The software can now store calendar entries across time zones, and its address book has the ability to store addresses in formats respective to the region.

In addition to an English-language version, Microsoft Office v. X for Mac is available in Spanish, Japanese, French, German and Swedish.

The software suite also makes use of an Apple technology called "keychain support," which allows a user to store passwords. Microsoft also added its new notification technology, which can send automatic notices and reminders through a pop-up window on a users' desktop.

While Office for Mac does bring new changes to the software, Microsoft has left out a number of features specific to the latest version of the software for the Windows operating system, Office XP. The Mac version won't include support for Microsoft's Smart Tags, which offers links to Web content and other information stored in a user's computer from within the desktop.

"It's similar to what we've done with Office XP in that it's really the beginning of bringing .Net over the Mac platform," said Michael Connolly, group program manager for Microsoft's Mac division. "But we have some pretty different goals in Office XP.

"I think a direct comparison with Office XP isn't the right way to think about this release," Connolly said.

Microsoft has set pricing for Microsoft Office v. X for Mac at US$499 for the full version and $299 upgrade. The company is also offering a special upgrade price of $149 for users who already run Office 2001 applications for Mac.

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Matt Berger

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