A Mac Wish List for the Folks at Microsoft

Datamation columnist John Welch has a few things he'd like to ask of the people in Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit.
Posted February 10, 2006

John Welch

John Welch

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This week, I'm going to branch off a bit and talk about the Microsoft Macintosh Business Unit, aka, the Mac BU, and specifically, some of the things I'd like to see from them.

Now, not everything on this list is a ''must have''. I also realize that with the current size of the Mac BU, they can't do all of this. But, I would like to put it out there for people who have large numbers of Macs and accounts with Microsoft, so when Microsoft gets requests for items on this list -- or for other things I haven't thought of -- they can back up those requests with statements like, ''This would affect x Macs and y dollars''.

As the folks I know in the MacBU have said for years, if there's a business case for something, the answer can become 'yes'' much more easily.

There's also no way people working in the Mac BU can do all of this themselves, not without becoming the biggest division in Microsoft. But I would like to see them partner with other divisions in the company, so they could share their experience with and understanding of the Mac platform. This would help avoid debacles like the (none too soon) retired Windows Media Player for Macintosh.

But don't restrict this partnering to just within Microsoft. There are a lot of people out there who have done a lot of work that could, if the Mac BU partnered with them, help Microsoft create a lot of great new products for the Mac without having to do all the work themselves.

Office 12

I'm not going to go into specific features of Office 12. That would take weeks. Literally.

As an overall package, I think compatibility beyond just the basic file formats needs to be handled better than in the past. There's far more retraining needed than there should be when moving someone between Office on Windows and Office on the Mac. Outside of operating system conventions, the UIs are just too dissimilar. People need to realize that the days of ''Well, Mac users are primarily home users'' are done and gone. If it is at all possible, the UIs for the two versions must track as closely as can be done within the respective platforms. That means replicating the new ''Ribbon'' UI for Word as closely as possible. No, it may not be Mac-like, but the ability to move smoothly between the two platforms is critical for many users.

The fact is, Office has to exist in two worlds, and it has to do so smoothly. Unlike Photoshop and the CS Suite, the Windows version is always going to be the favored child at Microsoft, so the Mac version has to deal with that.

The goal here should be the absolute minimum of retraining costs. I know it would make my life much, much simpler.

It works both ways too. Just try to do a ''Forward as attachment'' in Outlook. I'm beginning to think it can't be done. But in Entourage, it's right in the context menu for a message, or in the Message menu.

This can indeed work both ways. Outlook is in desperate need of UI simplification.


While I'm sure the Mac BU folks could do this themselves, they don't have to. Mark/Space's Missing Sync for Windows Mobile has most of the basics down now. What they really need is just some minor things, like more transparent backup, better Entourage synchronization, and the ability to sync directly with Exchange from a Mac while docked. I think we also could add direct iSync and tethering support for Windows Mobile Devices, installation of .exe files, and a rework of the Bluetooth sync, which is pretty weak right now.

If the Mac BU worked with Mark/Space and the ActiveSync team to help Missing Sync climb those last few steps, everyone would win. Microsoft would have another market for Windows Mobile device users that ''just works'', Missing Sync would have a much better product, and neither would have to do all the work themselves. A better sync option for Mac users and Window Mobile would drop support costs and make handheld decisions much easier for everyone.


Obviously, the Mac BU isn't going to port DirectX to the Mac, and create a way to keep it in sync with the main version on their own. That's a ton of work. But again, by partnering with the DirectX team, they could help them do this the right way. The Mac games market is small for two reasons, namely the number of Mac users. But more importantly, if you use DirectX, you have to completely reinvent all that work to get that same program on the Mac, and even then the features may not translate.

The Mac game community is starving for product. I know I'm just one person, but I've handed out three complete copies of Neverwinter Nights and the two expansion packs as gifts. They were paid for, not stolen.

The licensing of DirectX to the Mac would be a money maker. It would give the game developers a way to sell to the Mac community, (Ask Atari about the constant call for a Mac version of Neverwinter Nights 2 if you doubt there's interest), without it requiring significant differences in the code bases. It's not like you'd suddenly have half the Windows gaming market dump Windows for Mac OS X or anything silly like that. But there's a few million Mac users, including yours truly, who would buy more games if they could get the games they want. Microsoft makes money off of licensing fees for the libraries; the ISVs make money from more sales, and the hate mail levels would go down. Win, win, win.

Read on to see what Welch has to say about or Mono, Flip4Mac and Remote Desktop client improvements.

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