Granted, the 180 developers in the Macintosh Business Unit, or Mac BU as Microsoft (Quote, Chart) likes to call it, is a pittance compared to the 5,000 working on Vista. But Microsoft's continued support of the Mac (over 20 years and counting), through lean times and lawsuits, is impressive.
The Mac BU currently develops Macintosh versions of Office, Messenger, Virtual PC and Remote Desktop Client. Microsoft used to develop a Mac version of Internet Explorer but ceased development in 2003.
Earlier this year at MacWorld, Microsoft promised it would support the Mac for at least five more years.
Its next big release will be Office 2007 for Macintosh, due around six to eight months after the release of the latest Windows version of Office expected in January. Development of the Mac version of Office 2007 couldn't even begin until recently.
The BU recently hit a milestone of converting all of its Macintosh application code to Apple's Xcode, the Macintosh platform for developing a single set of binaries that are compatible with new Intel-based Macs as well as older PowerPC-based machines.
Industry analyst Rob Enderle said the Mac BU, which, like Apple, operates out of Silicon Valley, is as dedicated a bunch of Mac users as you'll find.
"The Mac division in Microsoft is closer to Apple than it is to Microsoft," he said. "You will not find a more Apple group outside Apple. They wouldn't touch a Windows machine if you broke both their legs and held both hands in the fire."
But Apple hasn't always repaid the loyalty. Enderle claimed the Mac BU wasn't informed of Apple's switch to Intel (Quote, Chart) until the day it happened. "They needed to know six months in advance. All this time was spent porting the code when they could have been working on the application," he said.
Apple's migration to Intel won't make development easier, but will present new opportunities for Microsoft developers, said Sheridan Jones, lead marketing manager for the Mac BU.
"There will be speed enhancements, and we can take advantage of the MacOS itself. "There's lots of things in the OS we can take advantage of," he said.
The move to Xcode means that Microsoft's Mac group can now start to move over to the Intel architecture. However, it does not mean that the Mac unit will simply take the code developed for the Windows version of Office and port it over.