BusinessWeek: Internet Explorer For The Mac Expendable; Apple Should Worry More About Office

Less than a week ago, Microsoft announced that it was discontinuing the development of Internet Explorer for The Mac, eliciting cheers from some, jeers from others. According to an article from BusinessWeek -- from the Byte of the Apple series by Alex Salkever -- the loss of Internet Explorer is a near non-issue due to Appleis Safari Web browser. The real issue at hand, according to Mr. Salkever, is Office. He thinks that the loss of a Mac version of Office could really make switching to the Mac platform a scary move for Windows users. From BusinessWeek:

SURFINi WITH SAFARI. As an Apple user myself, I pretty much abandoned IE for Appleis own Safari browser almost as soon as it came out in January, 2003. I donit miss IE much. And I donit think many other Mac users do, either. Appleis latest figures on Safari downloads puts the number at 2 million. Thatis about 10% of Appleis total installed user base worldwide.

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Still, a much bigger problem looms ahead for Apple. That Redmond pulled the plug on IE for Apple was hardly a surprise. After all, Jobs & Co. must have expected some reaction when it released Safari. But far more daunting is the prospect of Microsoft abandoning the Mac version of its popular Office software. Thatis because Apple hasnit yet shown it can replace Office for most of its users. And without Office, Appleis whole "switchers" program to convert Windows users will probably run aground.

Microsoft Word, Entourage, Excel, and PowerPoint are key bridges between the two worlds. Remove them, and buying a Mac suddenly looks a lot scarier. Microsoft swears six ways to Sunday that itis going full-speed ahead in developing the next version of Office for Mac. And the Redmond team says itill ship software this summer that will allow Apples running Microsoftis Entourage e-mail client to hook into the dominant corporate e-mail and scheduling program, Microsoft Exchange. "The relationship is as strong as ever," says Jessica Sommer, product manager at Microsoftis Macintosh Business Unit (Mac BU).

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So selling to smaller markets means, necessarily, smaller profits. As Microsoft seeks to squeeze out more income with Linux slowly eating at the edges of the desktop market and overall tech sales stagnant, support for Apple will look less like a viable business and more like foolish charity. As Linux matches Appleis market share and looks increasingly like a real competitor, any antitrust benefit to Microsoft for keeping Apple around has all but disappeared. Of course, the Bush Administration has hardly pursued antitrust with anything resembling vigor.

You can read the full article at BusinessWeekis Web site, and we recommend it as a good read.