Earlier this week, I sent a very authoritative e-mail to my editors, explaining that Microsoft would likely update the Mac version of Office in the first couple of weeks of August. A day later, Microsoft announced that the update will be delayed until January. Do you ever have weeks like that?
Macworld quotes Craig Eisler, general manager of the Microsoft Macintosh Business Unit: "We made the decision to do this so we could give users the type of quality that they deserve... This is a quality-driven decision."
Apple bloggers made with the funny in response:
Daring Fireball: "Translation: It's not done yet."
MacUser: "Sure, it sounds reasonable, but what other excuse are they really going to give? 'Oh, we totally forgot we were supposed to be working on Office, because we were all playing the Halo 3 demo. Our bad!'"
Other reasons for the delay: Apple's switch to Intel's chips, and converting Microsoft's new XML file format to the Mac platform, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Microsoft had planned to release the software in the second half of this year, so a delay to January really isn't much. However, I know I've talked to a few Mac users who -- like me -- expected it in the autumn or earlier, and to us the delay is a shock.
Microsoft now says it will release the software to manufacturers in December, which will put it on retail shelves in January and in enterprises the first quarter of 2008. The company plans to showcase the final version of Office 2008 for the Mac at the Macworld Conference Jan. 14-18.
So who's going to be hurt by this decision? Macworld's Philip Michaels says it's not the users or Apple. Microsoft is the biggest victim of its own delays. While Office is one of the last major Mac apps to add native compatibility with Intel hardware, Apple users aren't delaying buying new Macs to ensure Office compatibility, as they did with programs like the Adobe line.
And if I were Microsoft, that would worry me a bit. Sure, it's never pleasant to get grief from your customers about a product delay. But isn't that better than a shrug?
For every day that Office 2008 doesn't come out, that's another day for users to get accustomed to not having it -- and to wonder whether they even need Office in the first place. Speaking personally, I've been getting a little tired of Entourage's eccentricities. Originally, I was planning to see if Office 2008 improved matters any; now I'm wondering if it might be better to use the next six months to explore alternatives. I can't believe I'm the only Mac user mulling over that consideration.
A decade ago, Bill Gates appeared at Macworld Expo to announce what amounted to a bailout of Apple, including a pledge to continue supporting Mac with the Office. But Apple is a lot stronger now; it just had its best-ever sales quarter, Michaels notes. "I'm not saying Microsoft is becoming irrelevant to the Mac platform, but it does seem like the 800-pound gorilla has slimmed down recently," he said.
Mac sales of Office are becoming increasingly important to Microsoft. Mac Office sales are growing much faster than Office for Windows, the Associated Press notes: "Sales of Office for Macs rose about 72% from 2001 to 2006, compared with an increase of about 18% for Windows versions. Sales of the Mac versions made up about 20% of dollars spent on Office at U.S. retail stores and Web sites in 2006, up from 4% in 2001."
Update: 8 pm EDT: A friend read the first paragraph of this blog post and noted that it wasn't Microsoft that shot itself in the foot. Well, all right, we both did.