RealTime IT News

Microsoft Soothes Mac Attack

Mac users concerned whether they'd be able to access Office 2007 documents can relax.

Late last night, Microsoft  announced that it will release a free public beta of file format converters between Office 2007 and Office for Mac in the spring of 2007.

Brian Johnson, product manager for the Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU), said he expects final converters to be available within six to eight weeks from the next version of Office for Macintosh, which is expected to ship between six and eight months after general availability of Vista.

Mac users can open current versions of Microsoft Office documents, but cannot open Office 2007 documents, which are based on what Microsoft calls Open XML Format.

Users of XP can open Office 2007 documents thanks to conversion tools available from Microsoft. But until last night, Microsoft had not said when it would make similar conversion tools available for use with the Mac OS.

Word that Microsoft wasn't going to accommodate Mac users of Office circulated on blogs and other sites yesterday.

For example, CrunchGear editor John Biggs titled his entry on the subject "Use MS Office on Mac? You're About to Get Screwed."

That prompted Johnson to post a blog assuaging those fears. "The next version of Office for Mac will natively read the Open XML Format; users of the current version of Office will have converters in order to maintain compatibility with the new Office for Windows."

Microsoft support for Mac has grown steadily over the years, but given how out-of-sync compatibility fixes have been, it would be logical to conclude that it isn't a priority for the Redmond, Wash.-based software vendor.

But Johnson said that this delay is due to Microsoft's desire to get the technology right. "We had to wait until Office 2007 bits and the new file format itself were locked down," he wrote.

He noted that "90 percent of Microsoft has been dogfooding Office 2007 for many months, and we in the MacBU are well used to asking for down-reved versions ourselves. For now, we recommend that Mac users advise their friends and colleagues using Office 2007 to save their documents as a 'Word/Excel/PowerPoint 97-2003 Document' (.doc, .xls, .ppt) to ensure the documents can be shared across platforms."