Microsoft Soothes Mac Attack

Mac users concerned whether they’d be able to access Office 2007 documents can

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.”

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