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Microsoft Exec Takes Issue With OS X Marketing, Suggest Possible End Of Office v. X

Microsoft Exec Takes Issue With OS X Marketing, Suggest Possible End Of Office v. X

by , 8:00 AM EDT, July 15th, 2002

Apple has a spot of enormously negative coverage from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) to kick off the week of MACWORLD Expo. The WSJ has published comments (subscription required) from Kevin Browne, the head of Microsoft's Mac Business Unit, that not only takes Apple to task for not pushing OS X on its existing user base, but also calls into question the existence of Office v. X after 2003. From the WSJ article:

But now, on the eve of an Apple-oriented trade show in New York this week, some software developers are openly questioning how many of Apple's current consumers are adopting OS X (pronounced "OS ten," reflecting the Roman numeral) and saying the operating system has been a huge business disappointment. The upshot: Some of these developers may ultimately reassess whether to continue doing business with Apple.

Chief among the worriers: Microsoft, whose Office software has long been pivotal to the Macintosh. Microsoft says sales of a version of Office specially tailored for OS X-equipped Macintoshes have been sluggish, totaling only 300,000 copies since it was released in November -- behind the pace of the 750,000 it had expected over the first year.

Microsoft blames Apple. "There hasn't been a concerted effort to promote Mac OS X, even though the opportunity is there and our willingness is there," says Kevin Browne, who heads Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit.

Mr. Browne says Microsoft is committed to delivering another version of Office for Macintosh in 2003. But beyond that, he says, "it's harder to predict. If things don't dramatically turn around, we'll be evaluating this business with Apple."

Not so, says Apple's Phil Schiller, who went on to tell the WSJ that OS X adoptions continues apace, and that Microsoft should look to the price tag of Office v. X if it is wondering why sales are sluggish.

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of world-wide product marketing, says Microsoft's anxieties about OS X's progress are "very, very misplaced." He argues that the majority of Apple's software partners are pleased with sales of OS X, for which around 4,000 applications are now available.

Mr. Schiller says Microsoft "should look inward" for the reasons why Office X isn't faring well. He suggests one cause: Microsoft priced the software at $499 -- too expensive, in his opinion.

The article also discusses comments from Adobe (who is pleased with its Mac sales), Corel, and others in the industry. Our friends at MacCentral have published a mention of this story that includes facts and figures from a survey conducted by MacCentral. We would also like to thank our friends at MacMinute for the heads up on this article.

The Mac Observer Spin:

Let's translate this article: Microsoft is tense because Apple is advertising the idea that Mac OS X is better than Windows (Think Switch). As with any perceived threat to Windows inside Microsoft, the gloves are coming off, and Mr. Smith is taking aim across Apple's bow (we ask you to pardon the mixed metaphors). Many Observers have been commenting that they felt Apple's Switch ads were sure to offend Microsoft, and it seems that they were right.

Now, let's get into the specific timing of this little tidbit from the WSJ. It is no accident that Microsoft's comments were delivered the week of the Expo, and you can bet on that. This sort of thing will greatly suck all attention away from Apple's announcements this week, while analysts worry and fret over whether or not Apple can survive without Office for the Mac (it can, but that's beside the point). We have little doubt that there is some shouting and a great gnashing of teeth from Steve Jobs and his circle of top execs. The interesting thing will be to see if Apple's own gloves come off.

For those who would like to accuse the author of the WSJ article of being a Wintel stooge, think again. Pui-Wing Tam has often provided very favorable coverage of Apple for the WSJ, and even this report is covered fairly (comments from Apple, and nay-saying comments from Adobe that don't back up Microsoft's).

All that said, we also think it passing strange that Apple has taken such a low-key approach to promoting Mac OS X as a brand name since its release some 16 months ago. The Switch ads mentioned above focus on the Mac platform as a whole, and make nary a mention of Mac OS X itself. They certainly don't show anything of Mac OS X.

We would love to see Apple actually put some oomph behind OS X. With the release of Jaguar in "late summer" (expect to see a lot more of Jaguar at MACWORLD this week), we think it's possible that Apple will do just that. Stay tuned for TMO's coverage of MACWORLD this week for more information.

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