Microsoft's Mac BU Talks Next Version of Office

Microsoftis Macintosh Business Unit (MBU) will likely ship the next version of Office for Mac in the third quarter of 2007, adding support for Intel processors as well as the same XML file format support that will be found in Office 2007 for Windows. Mary Starman, the MBUis group product manager, told APC Magazine: "Typically we release about 6-8 months after Windows Office, and theyive announced general availability in the January timeframe, so we would be 6-8 months after that."

Ms. Starman noted that the transition to Appleis Xcode -- required so that Office can be released as a Universal Binary -- "was a huge milestone for us. We had to move from the CodeWare compiler, we were dealing with millions of lines of code and we still had old code that was written in Assembly, so itis been a long process to switch everything over and for our developers to learn the new tools." Over 130 employees comprise Microsoftis Mac development team.

The team is currently focused on refining the user interface, although Ms. Starman isnit sure that it will incorporate the "ribbon interface" in the works for Office for Windows. She said that "it wonit be exactly like you see in Office 2007. It just wouldnit make sense. Apple has got their own very specific set of user interface guidelines and we try to first and foremost to follow those guidelines. If we can innovate on top of that and do some interesting things to make sure that the interface is really discoverable for the Mac user, then weill look at doing that."

The next version of Office for Mac will see three Beta releases, but none of them will be available publicly, according to Ms. Starman. "Being such a small group we tend to do a smaller beta program with just a handful of corporate customers around the world," she said. "Weill usually refresh the build they have about three times, but itis not likely for this release that weill do a broad public beta where everyone can go and muck around."

As for the Macis ability to run Windows, the MBU isnit concerned about that. Sheridan Jones, the lead marketing manager, explained: "Mac customers would prefer to run a native version of Office on their Mac. But BootCamp and Parallels open up a lot of opportunities for people to run some of the applications that weire not able to port over, if they need Access or Project for example."

Thanks to Macworld UK for the link.