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Microsoft Announces Office Updates, Outlook Client for Mac

MWSF - Microsoft Announces Office Updates, Outlook Client for Mac

by , 5:00 PM EST, January 10th, 2001

Kevin Browne, General Manager of Microsoft's Macintosh Business unit, provided Wednesday's keynote speech. Kevin covered the long (and sometimes rocky) history of Microsoft and the Mac platform, as well as announcing some important new products to reaffirm their commitment to the Mac.

The presentation began with a humorous video entitled, "Taxi Confessions MacWorld," which included several "confessions" individuals were making to a taxi driver. There was a pair of ladies with heavy New York accents, a spastic artsy dude, a guy dressed as a woman, someone going on about the latest packaging for Office 2001, and an artsy couple dressed in all black. Kevin was also a passenger, and tried to pay the driver with shirts and pens since he didn't have any cash.

After this lighthearted video, things got serious. Kevin described the long history that Microsoft has had with Apple, ever since Word 1.0 which was introduced in 1984, just like the first Mac. Although there were some rough times, such as the Office 4.2.1 fiasco, recent development have shown an increasing level of support for the platform. This includes the creation of the Macintosh Business unit in 1997, and innovations that have been introduced on the Mac version of their products before the PC version.

Office 2001 is a great example of this, with features such as project gallery, picture tools, design wizards, data merge, Palm synchronization, list management, FileMaker import, and more. Kevin stated that Office 2001 is now available in 6 languages, and has sold over 250,000 copies.

Mary Rose Becker, Group Product Manager, then gave a demo of Entourage, showing the strong links between it and the other portions of the Office 2001 suite. Tom Nash from MYOB then came on stage, and showed some of the nifty integration features between their MYOB package and Office 2001, such as generating a payment reminder with Word, or importing financial info with Excel. Epson's Andreas Goehring then announced the Stylus Color 83 printer, which offers up to 2880 x 720 dpi, case design to match the G4 and Cube, and parallel and USB ports for compatibility with both Mac and Windows.

Kevin then announced Office 2001 Service Release 1, an update that will improve compatibility of Office 2001 with both Mac OS 9.1. He then went on to describe the many hardware products that they now offer for the Mac, including some optical pointing devices, and some cool keyboards. Although the keyboards still have the evil Windows logo on the keys, there is Mac driver software, allowing one to customize the additional function keys on the keyboard. He promised that if enough Mac users bought the keyboard, they may consider making one just for the Mac crowd.

One of the more important announcements was that of Outlook:Mac 2001, made by Jensen Harris, Program Manager for the project, which had been code named Watson. For the uninitiated, Outlook (not to be confused with Outlook Express) is an email client which functions with Microsoft's proprietary Exchange email server. This is used in many large organizations, and until now, Mac users were left with a very stripped-down version. Outlook:Mac 2001 is feature compatible with the Windows version, and as you may have guessed, has some Mac-only features. These include very easy installation and setup, a Sharing Panel so you can decide how much of your scheduling information you want to share with others. A beta is available now from http://www.microsoft.com/mac/, with the final version scheduled for release in Summer 2001.

Finally, Kevin talked about Office 2001 for Mac OS X. He provided a short demonstration, and even though it did crash, this was expected since it was an early version, complete with little bugs on several of the program banners. This was the first and only demonstration of this product at the show. Microsoft is predicting a release date of Fall 2001 for the product, and will (for a limited time) offer a discount on the upgrade price if you buy and register Office 2001 now. Instead of the $299 upgrade price, you will be entitled to a special upgrade price of $149.

The Mac Observer Spin:

Although the keynote started off slow, the new and upcoming product announcements are important to the ongoing health of the Mac, especially in the corporate arena. IT departments can no longer use the excuse that Office or Outlook aren't available for the Mac as a reason to remove the platform from their office. A big hand should go to Microsoft for their products are instrumental in keeping Macs on the desks of corporate America, something Apple has missed in the past.

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