updated 03:00 am EDT, Thu August 2, 2007
Office 2008 delayed
Microsoft's Mac Business Unit on Thursday announced that the next Mac version of its industry-standard Microsoft Office suite will be delayed. Saying the decision was purely "quality driven." The company told MacNN that the release of the highly anticipated Office 2008 for Mac suite has been pushed back from its originally projected late 2007 release date to early 2008 -- "hopefully" in time for the annual Macworld Expo Conference, which takes place in early January. As recently as June, the Mac BU said that Office 2008 was "on track" for release in the second half of 2007.
In a briefing with the Mac BU's new General Manager (GM), MacNN learned that mitigating factors for an on-time release included issues related to the new Open Office XML file format and problems with transitioning the Office code-base to an Intel-optimized Universal Binary. However, Microsoft's Craig Eisler, who replaced Roz Ho as GM of the Mac-focused devision earlier this year, emphasized that pushing for an earlier release would have compromised the quality of the product. A mid-December RTM (release to manufacturing) date has been set, which should make the software available by mid-January.
"Document fidelity is important to the Mac BU and they are working towards ensuring that files produced in Office 2008 for Mac are held to the standard of the new Office Open XML format and compatible with Office 2007 for Windows," Microsoft told MacNN.
The transition from Office 2004, as a set of CodeWarrior-compiled applications, to a full-fledged, Intel-native suite -- built using Apple's own Xcode development environment -- presented serious challenges for the Mac BU team, according to Microsoft representatives.
"Developing a Universal Office suite means coding for two separate platforms. The move from CodeWarrior to Xcode was a significant milestone and meant that the development team at the Mac BU had to learn new tools to continue development of Office 2008 for Mac," company representatives explained.
Earlier this week, Microsoft released an update to its standalone Office Open XML drag and drop converter. The update includes improvements to converting Word documents and the additional ability to convert PowerPoint .pptx files. As previously announced, the Mac BU is working to include the ability to convert Excel .xlsx files in the drag and drop converter. The Mac BU confirmed that the delay in Office 2008 would also push back the final release of the converter: Microsoft intends to release the final utility about 6-8 weeks after Office 2008 ships.
Full Leopard compatibility?
Addressing compatibility concerns with Apple's upcoming Mac OS X Leopard release, Eisler said that the company is "working closely with Apple to deliver the best possible experience for our mutual customers." However, the Microsoft employee also said that the Redmond-based company does not have any Leopard-specific features to announce at this time.
While the Mac BU is working with Apple to deliver the Office 2008 release, it would not comment on whether the productivity suite would be 100 percent compatible with Apple's Leopard operating system. Earlier this year, Apple delayed the release of its Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" operating system, as it reallocated development resources to ensure the timely release of the iPhone.
Currently, Office 2008 is in a closed beta cycle. The release was announced during Macworld 2007, and shares a new graphics engine with Office for Windows, as well as introducing Office Art 2.0, which enables users to easily add pre-designed graphics. The upgraded suite also features a new user interface that offers an Elements Gallery, emphasizing discoverability while providing quick access to tools as well as Mac-specific features within applications.