Officially called Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac, the software is a version of the Windows-based Office 2007 rewritten for use on Apple computers. The suite includes Word 2008, Excel 2008, PowerPoint 2008, and Entourage 2008, a contact and scheduling application.
A premium-priced Media Edition features asset management tools that can be used to manage data stored in Microsoft's Exchange Server environment.
Mac Office 2008 saves documents in Microsoft's controversial Office Open XML format, which the software maker has floated as an alternative to the Open Document Format standard. Both formats are designed to help users more easily exchange data between documents and applications. ODF has won approval as a standard from the International Organization for Standardization. OOXML recently failed to win ISO fast-track approval, but has been ratified as a standard by ECMA, another international standards body.
Winning the imprimatur of standards bodies is key for software makers if they hope to make inroads in government and emerging markets, where buyers tend to shun products that aren't standards-based.
Microsoft is releasing Mac Office 2008 at a time when its heretofore unchallenged lock on the desktop market is under pressure from some well-heeled challengers. IBM last week said it would offer a private label version of the OpenOffice productivity suite called Lotus Symphony as a free download. The product, however, isn't Mac-friendly -- it runs only on Windows and Linux PCs.
Meanwhile, Google has entered the fray with its low-cost Google Apps offering -- a set of hosted products that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, and calendar.
Mac Office 2008 will be available in a number of languages, including English, Dutch, French, German, Italian and Japanese. The Nordic languages -- Danish, Finnish, and Norwegian -- will be supported for the first time as well.
Microsoft plans to ship Mac Office 2008 on Jan. 15. It will be made available internationally some time after that in the first quarter.
The full retail version is priced at $399.95, while the upgrade version for Mac Office 2004 users is $239.95. The Media Edition costs $499.95.