Q&A: Microsoft’s Renewed Commitment to Developing for the Mac

Editors’ Update, August 9, 2006 –
The Microsoft Mac Business Unit has made the decision not to move forward with a Universal version of Virtual PC at this time; however, current Virtual PC customers will continue to receive product support in accordance with

Microsoft support policies

. Developing a high-quality virtualization solution, such as Virtual PC, for the Intel-based Mac is similar to creating a version 1.0 release – due to how closely the product integrates with Mac hardware. The Mac Business Unit recognizes that customers continue to need access to Microsoft Windows-based applications from their Intel-based Macs, and feels confident that alternative solutions offered by Apple and other vendors, combined with a fully packaged retail copy of Windows, will satisfy this need.

REDMOND, Wash., Jan. 10, 2006 – Microsoft continues to deliver world-class technology products for the Macintosh platform, as it has for more than 20 years. Founded in 1997, Microsoft’s Macintosh Business Unit (Mac BU) is a leading developer of software for Mac customers. The group comprises more than 180 fulltime Mac product experts, who are dedicated to creating top productivity software for Mac customers worldwide. Developed by Mac users for Mac users, the current product line includes: Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac, a productivity suite that is comprised of the e-mail application and personal information manager Entourage 2004, Word 2004, Excel 2004 and PowerPoint 2004; Microsoft Messenger for Mac 5; and Microsoft Virtual PC for Mac Version 7.

Roz Ho, General Manager, Macintosh Business Unit, Microsoft

PressPass spoke with Roz Ho, general manager for the Macintosh Business Unit, about the Mac BU’s work to build next generation software for Apple’s Intel-based Macs and announcements from this week’s 2006 Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco.

Q. What have you announced at Macworld 2006?

A. This year, we made announcements in three areas. First, we continue focusing on improvements prioritized by our customers, specifically for Entourage 2004, which will include Sync Services integration, support for Spotlight search and enhanced Smart Card technology. These updates are the next step in our work with customers to provide deeper support of Mac platform technologies. Additionally, in March we’ll deliver an update to Messenger for Mac 5.0 that introduces encrypted file transfer and makes Messenger smarter about where to send a message if a user is logged in on more than one machine. We also outlined our plans at the show to build converters that will read the new Microsoft Office Open XML Format. Finally, we announced a new agreement with Apple. Our news overall emphasizes our dedication to building leading-edge products for the Mac platform.

Q. Tell me more about the new agreement. What does this signify for your relationship with Apple?

A. We’re taking our already strong relationship to the next level by formalizing our commitment to develop Office for Mac for both PowerPC- and Intel-based Macs. We’ll keep working with Apple, just as we have for more than 20 years, to meet the needs of all Mac customers. The commitment agreement officially reinforces our existing plans.

Q. You’ve said you’ll support Intel-based Macs. What will the switch mean for customers?

A. We are fully committed to working closely with Apple to support the new architecture. It’s a significant undertaking for some developers to rebuild products to work natively in the new chip environment, and we are already in the process of making our software compatible. As Apple has said, it will be a gradual transition for users, so we’ll continue to have many customers working on PowerPCs. While some move to the Intel-based machines, both types of users will have the same need for productivity software.

Q. How are you working with Apple to make the switch? Tell me about Apple’s Rosetta, and how it will assist with the transition.

A. Microsoft’s Mac customers are very important, and Apple recognizes and supports our contributions to the platform. Interim solutions, such as Rosetta, will enable Office for Mac and Messenger for Mac on the new machines while we build universal binaries that will make it possible to run these two products natively on PowerPC- and Intel-based Macs. The next version of Office for Mac is being built for both machines to ensure all Mac users have access to the best Mac productivity suite.

Q. What about Virtual PC? What is the future of this product?

A. Virtual PC 7 remains the top emulation software for Mac PowerPC users. However, applications like Virtual PC that are highly dependent on the OS will not run under Rosetta. These types of products require a dedicated team and a lot of work to rebuild them for an entirely new architecture. That said, we know that using Windows-based applications on Macs is important to our customers, and we’re working with Apple to figure out the best way to bring this technology to Intel-based Macs. We’ll have a better idea once we have the new machines and can accurately evaluate just what is required to transition the product.

Q. Will timing for delivery of next versions of Mac BU products be impacted?

A. We typically deliver new versions every two to three years, as this timeframe is when the majority of customers are ready for new productivity software. Moving to universal binaries will naturally impact our schedule, but we’re dedicated to bringing Office for Mac and Messenger for Mac to customers and making sure we deliver the highest quality products. We’ll know just how much the schedule will need to shift as soon as we’re able to fully test our current and forthcoming solutions on Intel-based Macs.

Q. What else is on the horizon for the Mac BU?

A. As I’ve mentioned, we’re continuing to develop our core three products that Mac users depend on. We’ll keep supporting them and delivering new features and improvements.

Compatibility is a top customer concern, and the work that we are doing with the new XML file formats, layout engines and graphics handling will drive improved file compatibility. Customers know they’ll have more than the ability to open and share data, they know they can trust the data will appear the way it was intended.

Finally, we’ll keep working with Apple to identify new technologies that will benefit our customers. We’ll continue to collaborate closely with other Microsoft teams to develop new and creative ways to deliver answers to common productivity problems. The future is bright for the Mac BU, and we’re focused on bringing world-class productivity software to the Mac.

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