Microsoft announced upcoming enhancements to its Office 2004 at the MacWorld trade show in San Francisco, saying that it will, for instance, add more support for Exchange to the Mac suite's e-mail application, Entourage. The update, which Microsoft said would release during the second half of 2005, is set to provide viewing of multiple calendars, better server-client synchronization, and improved mailbox quota management tools.
"In the six months since we launched Office 2004, our customers told us they needed deeper Exchange support," said Roz Ho, the general manager of Microsoft's Macintosh division, in a statement. "We heard them, and it's coming."
Another enhancement aimed at enterprises, said Ho, is the just-posted public beta of a utility for migrating data from Outlook 2001 for the Mac to Entourage. Dubbed the ".PST Import Tool," it can be downloaded from the Mactopia Web site (Microsoft's Mac-specific site).
Entourage replaced Outlook 2001 as the Mac Office suite's default e-mail client in 2001 when Microsoft released Office X for the Mac.
"There are little islands of Macs in enterprises," said Paul DeGroot, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. "Administrators want to make these islands tap into the existing e-mail structure, including scheduling and calendaring. That's why the emphasis on re-connecting Entourage to Exchange."
Microsoft also promised it would roll out version 5.0 of MSN Messenger for the Mac during the first half of the year -- complete with support for the Redmond, Wash.-based developer's Live Communication Server and a tabbed interface to separate personal and work contacts -- and announced an online resource locale with Office 2004 tips and templates. The Job Tools site is aimed at educators, marketing types, and small businesses for the moment, but will be expanded to include other user categories, Microsoft said.
Also on Tuesday, Apple went public with iWork '05, the follow-on to its long-running AppleWorks entry-level suite. But contrary to speculation last week that Apple might be preparing to battle Microsoft in the application space, iWork '05 is clearly a consumer product.
Unlike Office 2004, iWork '05 bundles only a word processor -- dubbed "Pages" -- and the presentation and photo portfolio maker Keynote 2. "We're building the successor to AppleWorks by taking advantage of the latest innovations in Mac OS X and iLife '05," said Sina Tamaddon, Apple's senior vice president of applications, in a statement Tuesday.
Apple isn't bundling iWork '05 with new Macs, but instead is charging $79 for the small suite. That, said Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox in an online brief, means that it's no threat to Microsoft Office 2004, even in the small- and medium-sized business market, where it might have gotten some traction if it had been included with the hardware.
"The no-free bundle situation negates any immediate impact on Office 2004 or Apple's relationship with Microsoft," he wrote. "The only potential problem I could see would have been the small- and medium-business market, but that assumed iWork would ship on new Macs."