TMO at MWSF - A First Look at Microsoft Office 2008
by , 11:00 AM EST, January 17th, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO - Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU) announced the immediate availability of Microsoft Office 2008 on Tuesday at the Macworld Conference and Expo. TMO received a guided tour of the new office suite.
According to Sheridan Jones, MacBU Marketing Manger and Geoff Price, Product Unit Manager with Microsoft, the primary focus for the new version was simplification. To that end, there were four themes: Discoverability, growth with the user, quick access to professional level output, and compatibility.
In the demonstration provided to TMO staff, it was evident that these design goals have changed the look and feel of the product. Word, Excel, and Powerpoint all have the same look and utilize similar document elements galleries that contain editable templates. There was some evidence of influence from Pages and Keynote in the design of Word and Powerpoint which is good news. Imitation is healthy flattery in this case. Excel introduces Ledger Sheets that assist the user with avoiding what's called "Grid Fear," the anxiety of a large expanse of empty cells on the page.
Microsoft has also taken advantage of some Mac OS X core technologies such as OpenGL and Core Graphics. Because the legacy code goes back several decades, Microsoft elected to stay with 32-bit Carbon code combined with a small amount of Cocoa. Previous versions were built with Metrowerks CodeWarrior, but Office 2008 was built entirely with Xcode and is primarily written in C and C++, depending on the app. The good news is that all Office 2008 apps are Universal Applications.
Office 2008 also integrates with Mac OS X high level technologies. In Powerpoint, the graphics gallery is integrated with iPhoto. Entourage's calendar interfaces to sync services.
In terms of compatibility, the Office 2008 suite goes well back in time to support the older Office version file formats.
In the short demonstration provided to us, the most significant observation was that the MacBU appears to have addressed the complexity issue. All of the components seem to be simple enough to get one started with building good looking products while still allowing the advanced users to exploit the deeper power contained in the applications as they learn more.
We'll know a lot more about this dramatically new product in the coming weeks. For now, Office 2008 appears to be a powerful, inviting, friendly, and Mac OS X savvy next generation office suite that looks great and achieves some important, user-friendly design goals.
MS Office 2008 for Mac requires a Mac with an Intel, PowerPC G5, or PowerPC G4 (500 MHz or faster) processor and Mac OS X 10.4.9 or later. The estimated retail price is US$399.95 for the full retail version and US$239.95 for the upgrade. There are two other versions, a student edition which is less expensive and the more expensive Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Special Media Edition version geared to professional users who also require MS Exchange support.
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