Microsoft Office for Mac's site off to a bad start

Microsoft has launched a Web site to show off some features in its Office productivity suite for the Apple Mac, but at this stage it seems the company can't even get the promotional Web site working correctly.

commentary Microsoft has launched a Web site to show off some features in its Office productivity suite for the Apple Mac, but at this stage it seems the company can't even get the promotional Web site working correctly.

For a start, the entire site is created in Flash. This may work for glossy movie and entertainment Web sites, but for something that is supposed to be serious and about business, it's a curious choice.

While Microsoft no doubt thought that the site had to be fully animated in this way to properly illustrate the new capabilities of Office for Mac, the fully Flash animated site has proven to be a pain to load.

You also have to wonder whether creating a site based on Flash was a good idea for Microsoft, given their competitive push against Adobe with the new Silverlight package. We all know how dominant Flash is in the field, but is using your competitor's technology in this way such a good idea?

All this would be fine of course, if the site worked correctly.

Under Firefox, the main page loads OK, but the video display in the main frame refuses to start at all. Even with Internet Explorer the video starts, but is very slow, stalling and cutting out after just a few seconds.

It's hard to tell if there's a problem with how the site is designed, or if it's a problem with the server load being placed on the site. Either problem, of course, should not exist for a company like Microsoft.

Coming back to the site after 10+ minutes in either browser, there is a slight sign of progress, but how long are we supposed to wait? Comments at this blog entry on sister site ZDNet.com seem to echo these problems.

Mac Office main site in Firefox

The main page for the Mac Office site, in Firefox on Windows XP.
Note the video window is not displaying.

The fun doesn't stop there though. The site helpfully provides a link at the bottom of the page to the "Mac Mojo" company blog. And when you click on it with Firefox, the site looks normal:

Mac Office blog site in Firefox

The "Mac Mojo" blog site. Everything looks normal.

But if you click on the site in IE (I have version 6, but should this really be an issue?), you get a rather different version. It looks like a simple problem with the CSS table coding of the page, but how on Earth could Microsoft get this wrong?

Mac Office main site in Internet Explorer

However, in IE, things go just a little out of whack.

Remember, this is a piece of software already beset by delays. And it exists in a very large part because Microsoft wants to show the world (and no doubt antitrust regulators) it is committed to more than one platform.

But if Microsoft can't even get a promotional Web site right, what hope is there for the software itself?

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