NEW YORK, July 19, 2001 — From the moment the screen illuminates, a pale blue that gradually deepens, right through to the closing of an application, when the image slithers, whirls and dissolves into an icon at the bottom of the screen, like a Genie into a bottle — it’s obvious that Microsoft’s Office 10 for Mac OS X is more than an upgrade.
“What we’re delivering here is a brand new experience for the Mac user,” says Kevin Browne, general manager of the Macintosh Business Unit at Microsoft, or MacBU. Browne today unveils Microsoft’s newest productivity suite for Mac OS X at Macworld Expo, Apple’s showcase for professionals involved in media and creative content development and consumers who use the Mac at home. Microsoft plans to release Office 10 this fall.
The new user experience in Office 10 is built upon Apple’s Mac OS X, the mission of which is to offer users an operating system that combines the stability of Unix with the simplicity of a Mac. “Office 10 is designed to complement Mac OS X’s new Aqua graphical user interface,” Browne says. “It’s a product that looks and feels like it belongs on OS X. It has the same aesthetic.”
Features throughout Office 10 appear native to Mac OS X. Like moving cells observed through a microscopic lens, toolbars attach themselves to different parts of the screen or to each other, depending on the task being performed. The new icons are bigger and more colorful, matching the Aqua appearance of OS X. And switching back and forth from editing text to graphic images in the applications is a one-step process.
But it’s the changes that aren’t visible in Office 10 that make the biggest difference for the user, Browne says. “Mac users are accustomed to managing memory for their applications according to their usage patterns,” he explains. “Expert users could make their system run efficiently by allocating more memory, while less sophisticated users might be challenged to make everything work right. Mac OS X eliminates the need for users to tune their own systems, and also eliminates confusing ‘out-of-memory’ messages as well.”
Ancient Terms, Modern Meanings: Carbon, Quartz and Aqua
As the Mac operating system has matured, so has Microsoft’s productivity suite for it, says Kenny Wolf, development manager for Office 10. “With each product we develop, our goal is to deliver a suite that is truly Mac-like,” says Wolf, who has used Apple computers since the early 1980s and served as software design engineer on the Office 98 Macintosh Edition and as a development manager for Office 2001 for Mac. With Office 10, Wolf says, the “Mac-like” experience has been brought to a new level. “By adopting Carbon and Aqua, and by using Quartz to enhance the graphics capabilities throughout Office 10, we’ve integrated system capabilities more deeply than ever.”
This deep integration, Wolf says, will result in a noticeably enhanced experience for users. At the beginning of the Mac OS X development process, the existing code for Office 10 was modified to use Apple’s updated application program interface (API), known as Carbon. Since Office 10 features 25 million lines of its own code, choosing an API that accepts existing code was a crucial decision, Wolf explains.
“Carbon allowed us to leverage our existing code base, and at the same time take advantage of brand-new OS X technologies,” Wolf says. “One of these new technologies, Carbon Events, allows for more responsiveness and a deeper connection with the OS than users had previously. The benefit is, you don’t have applications vying for the same resources within the OS, and if the OS does something, the applications react accordingly.” Carbon Events also manage the applications in such a way that they’re not constantly polling the system, which results in better battery life for portables.
Quartz, which is a set of APIs and a rendering engine in Mac OS X, was developed to improve two-dimensional graphics capabilities. Thanks to the integration of Quartz in Office 10, Wolf says he is confident that users will be able to make better-looking graphics in their documents. The power of Quartz is evident throughout Office 10, according to Wolf, especially in the way Office 10’s arsenal of drawing tools now harnesses the ability to produce smooth anti-aliased lines, beautiful Charts in Microsoft Excel and transparencies that enable users to layer objects for photo-quality documents. “Implementation of Quartz in Office 10 is stunning,” Wolf says.
The feature in Mac OS X that has caused the biggest stir, according to developers and Mac fans alike, is Aqua, the operating system’s electric and liquid blue user interface (UI). Every application included in Office 10 incorporates Aqua, Wolf says. During the development of Office 10, a dedicated team of professional designers changed more than 1,000 dialogs, toolbar icons and alerts to match the exact appearance found in Mac OS X’s UI. The result: an easier-to-read, easier-to-navigate environment and an animated UI that, according to Wolf, improves discoverability dramatically.
“Aqua has provided us with a fantastic opportunity to break with the past and reinvent the future,” Wolf says with a smile. “Office 10 is truly ‘Aqualicious.'”
Browne and Wolf are both pleased with the innovations that have been made in Office 10. In Microsoft Word documents, users can now reset characters and paragraphs, and set the default style with a single click of the mouse. Also, users can make multiple selections of text throughout a document to apply formatting, spelling, search or any other operation not previously applied. The Auto Recover capabilities in Excel protect users from power outages and system failures, while keyboard shortcuts are now fully customizable. In Microsoft PowerPoint, users can collect sounds, movies and images when transferring presentations to other users’ machines and electronic media, such as CD-ROMs. PowerPoint also takes advantage of the new animation support for QuickTime movies in the presentation program.
A new Mac OS X feature Microsoft added to Office 10 that Wolf especially pleases him is Sheets. Like dialog boxes, Sheets are alerts, or prompts for action. Unlike dialogs, however, Sheets don’t lock up the entire application. If a user is working in one document and a Sheet comes up — to print or save, for example — Sheets ensure that the user can open another document or program and continue working. “Sheets free up restrictions and give the user greater flexibility,” Wolf says. “They eliminate the demand for immediate reaction.”
Forging ahead in unfamiliar and sometimes unsettled territory is nothing new for the people in the MacBU. Since its launch in 1997, the MacBU team has evolved a full range of fully equipped Office applications — Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage, an e-mail and personal information manager — as well as supporting applications including Internet Explorer, Outlook Express and Outlook 2001 for Mac.
Building on a History of Innovations for Mac Users
Microsoft is also working on upgrades for key Mac products. The just-released MSN Messenger 2.0 is the first fully functional instant messaging application designed specifically for Mac OS X. It also runs on Mac OS 8 and 9.Built on Carbon, it features a new Aqua user interface, as well as new graphics and icons, improved usability, chat window improvements and other enhancements to the program. MSN Messenger 2.0 for Macintosh is available now as a free download on Microsoft’s Mac-centric Web site, Mactopia .
Also today, Microsoft demonstrated its new Windows Media Player for Mac OS X. While it, too, is a Carbon application, Windows Media Player for Mac OS X was designed to run only on Mac OS X. It will be available in the fall.
At the Mactopia Web site, users can also access product information, free downloads and listings of educational resources. They can participate in Mac user groups, take part in usability studies or sign up to receive the Mactopia E-Newsletter.
The guiding principle in the growth of the MacBU, according to Browne, is listening to the customer. “It’s important for us to understand the Mac customer, as opposed to the Windows customer,” he says. “We have our own planning staff and we do our own original research, drawing on what we hear in focus groups and usage studies to guide us in developing new products.”
A New Level of Teamwork
During the development of Office 10, Browne says the team stopped at nothing to reach their development goals. “The amazing thing about this project is that we took the team that had spent 30 months working on Office 2001, gave everyone five days off, and then went directly into Office 10,” he says. Sixty thousand engineering hours later, Browne is unequivocally pleased with his team’s efforts, dedications and results. “The MacBU is used to life on the frontier, and everyone did a stellar job at going above and beyond expectations,” he says.
He feels that the teamwork between Microsoft and Apple reached a new level as well. “I am confident that we could not develop the level of technology that we’re delivering without this kind of interaction,” he says. “Both companies are highly motivated to work together and both are committed to continue developing innovative products for Mac users.”
Browne measures the success of Mac technologies developed by Microsoft in a number of ways. One favorite is the manner in which he is received at Macintosh events, such as Macworld Expo. “At the beginning of a presentation I generally receive a neutral-to-polite golf clap,” he says. “But by the end, after we’ve shown our products, we’re very warmly cheered.”
Microsoft’s significant investment in the Mac community is apparent in the range of offerings, Browne says. “We’re doubling the breadth of our investment in software for Mac operating systems,” he says. “We are serving users on both Mac OS 9 and OS X.”
Key to that investment, he says, is the fact that most everyone in Microsoft’s MacBU is a diehard Mac aficionado. Nothing underscores that passion more clearly than the dedication the team put into developing Office 10. “The people who build these products are Mac users and Mac lovers,” he says. “At night they use the very products they’ve worked so hard to develop during the day, and they expect them to be good.”