Apple, Amazon pre-sell Office 2008 for Mac

No guarantees that the suite will arrive on Jan. 15, however

Online retailers, including Apple's own store, have begun taking pre-orders for Microsoft's Office 2008 for Mac, the first new version of the application suite on Apple's platform in nearly four years.

The bundle, which includes updates to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage, is set for a January 15 launch at next week's MacWorld Conference & Expo in San Francisco.

Both the online Apple Store and Amazon.com are taking pre-orders for the suite, but neither promises to deliver the software by next Tuesday. An Apple Store sales representative, for example, first told Computerworld that the product would likely arrive "around the end of the month," then changed the estimated arrival date to January 21.

Office 2008 for Mac is available in three editions: US$149.95 for the Home and Student version, US$399.95 for the standard version and US$499.95 for the Special Media Edition. Two upgrades, US$239.95 for the standard version and US$299.95 for Special Media Edition, are also available for users running earlier versions of Office.

Apple's e-store cites the list prices for Office 2008, but Amazon, as it often does, is discounting the suite. The Seattle-based e-tailer's Web site, for instance, lists Home and Student at US$130.99 and the standard edition at US$354.99.

Microsoft has essentially been pre-selling Office for weeks, however. In November, it cranked up sales of Office 2004 by offering a free copy of Office 2008 Special Media Edition to customers who purchased the older suite through Jan. 14. Another special that ran only on the Friday after Thanksgiving promised a US$100 rebate on Office 2004 and the free copy of Special Media Edition (U.S. customers were required to pay US$7 for shipping and handling).

The suite was originally supposed to debut in late 2007, but last August, Craig Eisler, the general manager for Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit, pushed the release to early 2008. "It was clear from our June and July quality checkpoints that no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't release our product in time for the Christmas season with the kind of quality we wanted," Eisler said on August 2.

Office 2008 is the first version of Microsoft's suite to be offered in a native Intel version. Although Office 2004 runs on Intel-based Macs, it does so through the Mac OS X's Rosetta technology, which has caused users to complain about long start-up times and slow performance.

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Gregg Keizer

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