Office 2008 for the Mac: Can You Say 'Flop'?: Page 2


You Can't Detect What You Can't See: Illuminating the Entire Kill Chain

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Posted September 25, 2007

John Welch

John Welch

(Page 2 of 2)

So really, with the removal of VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) in Office 2008, the big advantage it has over the others on the Mac is...Entourage. However, all that has been released publicly about Entourage 2008 is support for Out of Office (OOF) messages in Exchange environments. Oh, and My Day. You can get an idea of what My Day is at the Microsoft Office 2008 site. They have some (horribly grainy and kind of nasty looking Flash) videos on it. So we don't really know what's going to be new in Entourage. Most of the videos show off little more than UI eye candy, which is no surprise, but I hope there's more to Office 2008 than eye candy, OpenXML support and a universal binary, because there's a new competitor for the Mac BU on the Mac now, at least on Intel Macs: Office for Windows.

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With Parallels, VMWare Fusion and Crossover Office, you can run what most people consider the "real" version of Office. Need Outlook's feature set? Don't wait for Entourage, use Outlook. Need guaranteed file compatibility with Office for Windows? No problem, run Office for Windows.

That's the elephant in the room for Office 2008: Office 2003/2007, and for the first time, Office 2008 has to directly compete with its big brother. Sure, you have to buy a copy of Windows, (unless you use Crossover Office to run Microsoft Office), and a copy of Office for Windows, but in a corporate environment? This is so not a problem. The IT department will probably be happier, since if everyone runs the same version of Office, compatibility issues that have plagued Mac Office for ten years now go away. That's no small reason.

So basically, Office 2008 has to be a monster hit, or the only people who are really going to flock to it are going to be those who can't/won't run the alternatives, and can't/won't run a virtualization environment. That's not a huge number to bet on at best.

Now, what do I mean by "monster hit"? Basically, file compatibility issues need to get tons better. Embedded objects have to stop breaking. Layouts have to work right. Files have to be able to round trip between Windows and Mac users with no "special work" needed on the part of the Windows users. However, that's going to mean that the Mac BU has set aside its long-held perception that Macs are only used for "makin' purty pitchers" or in the SOHO market, and have become serious business tools. Actually, it means they had to have set aside that perception about a year or so ago. Based on what they seem to be marketing, I have serious doubts about this.

But if they don't do this, then the question becomes, "What am I paying four hundred bucks for?" If the answer to this isn't something substantially better than "Universal binaries and a pretty UI," then the reply will be, "No thank you, I'll just go with Windows Office", and if that starts happening, then those are Mac BU customers that are going to be hideously hard to get back. This will not do good things for the Mac BU's sales, and while I don't think the Mac BU would get the knife based on philosophical issues, if their numbers suddenly fall off a cliff, well, then I'm not so sanguine about their future.

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