Next Version of Mac Office Getting Outlook

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Microsoft‘s Macintosh Business Unit today announced some details of its next version of Microsoft Office for the Mac—and the big surprise is that Microsoft is committing to shipping a version of Outlook for the Macintosh. The Mac version of Outlook will replace the existing Entourage email and communication application that’s been part of Microsoft Office for several years; although Entourage has long features some Exchange capability, it’s always been a second-class citizen in the Exchange world—and it’s often unreliable monolithic database won it few friends even among Mac Office users. The new version of Outlook promises to make the Mac an equal player alongside its Windows counterparts—and it will be an entirely new Cocoa application, built using Mac OS X’s base technologies and featuring a new database system.

“Outlook for Mac will bring features our customers have long requested—such as Information Rights Management—that make working across platforms even easier,” said MacBU’s general manager Eric Wilfrid, in a statement. “I think people will see that this move to Outlook for Mac is more than just a name change.”

Microsoft didn’t name a date for when it plans to ship the next version of Mac Office, but said the product should be on shelves in time for the 2010 holiday season. That’s well over a year away; in the meantime, Apple is introducing improved support for Exchange in its own default Mail application with Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard,” which will be on shelves in a few weeks. Although Snow Leopard won’t support every feature of Exchange. Nonetheless, building a full-fledged version of Outlook into Mac Office will no doubt help the Redmond company sell Mac Office to enterprises, governments, and organizations who buy large volumes of software licenses—and, of course, full-fledged Outlook clients for both Mac and Windows gives those organizations more reason to standardize on Exchange for communications needs.

Microsoft also announced a new $399.99 Business Edition of Microsoft Office 2008 for Macintosh, slimming the Mac Office offerings to Home and Student Edition and the new Business Edition. TheBusiness Edition includes Entourage 2008 for Mac Web Services Edition, Microsoft Document Connection for Mac (for hitting Sharepoint and Microsoft Office Live Workspace), as well as new clip art andtraining materials from lynda.com.

Microsoft also said it had nothing to say about the possibility of developing mobile versions of Office applications for the Apple iPhone; yesterday, Microsoft announced a new partnership with Nokia to bring Office applications to Nokia devices.

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