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Office 2008 for Mac release date slips

Microsoft in delayed software shocker

The long-awaited Intel-native Office, featuring programs such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Entourage (Outlook for Mac, in essence), was originally scheduled to be released later this year. But the first Intel-native version of Office has been delayed by what the head of Microsoft's Mac Business Unit calls "a perfect storm" of factors.

Microsoft will delay the release of Office 2008 for Mac until mid-January 2008, representatives of the company's Macintosh Business Unit announced yesterday.

Instead, Microsoft said it hoped to release Mac Office 2008 to manufacturing in December, which would allow it to release the product at the January 2008 Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco.

"We made the decision to do this so we could give users the type of quality that they deserve," said Craig Eisler, general manager of the Macintosh Business Unit. "This is a quality-driven decision."

Eisler, who took over the top job at Microsoft's Mac Business Unit in June, said the decision was made as a part of Microsoft's standard process of quality evaluations, and that his arrival was not a factor in the decision.

"It was my call, but this wasn't Craig coming in and saying, 'We need more time,'? Eisler said. The delay was not due to the addition of any new features, he added, but rather was the combination of a "perfect storm" of factors that hampered the development effort.

"We switched to Intel, and Office changed file formats," Eisler said. "It was no one thing. This release was harder than most just because of all those things happening at once."

In order to build Intel-native Mac applications, the Office development team also had to switch from FreeScale's CodeWarrior environment and instead adopt Apple's Xcode system.

"Changing development tools is not something you'd voluntarily do in the middle of a product cycle," Eisler said. "But if we wanted to target Intel processors, it was a necessity."

Office 2008 for Mac will share some technologies with its Windows counterpart, Office 2007, making for seamless compatibility between the different versions, according to Microsoft. Both Office releases will use the Office Open XML Formats, which will enable users to easily save files and open files in either platform.

Other new features of Office 2008 for Mac include a Publishing Layout View, which lets users create layout-rich documents in Word, and Ledger Sheets, which enables Excel to handle common financial management tasks such as budgets, invoices, and registers without requiring users to whip up complex formulas on their own.

Eisler said that pricing for Office 2008 has not been finalised.


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