I had an epiphany today. I am reasonably sure it was an epiphany and not a transient ischemic attack, since I did not require hospitalization afterward, and I rather enjoyed the experience. My epiphany came while watching a demo of the first engineering build of Microsoft Office 98 for the Mac, provided by its product manager, Deanna Meyer, and the general manager of the Microsoft Macintosh Business Unit, Ben Waldman.
I was not expecting to have an epiphany. In fact, I was all set to give Waldman and Meyer a hard time because I despise the current lame Office product for the Mac. I despise it because it lacks the elegance, power and reliability of the Windows product. I despise it because it steadfastly tries to fit its Windows-derived interface into a Mac OS container.
So what made me so surprised? What could Microsoft Corp. have pulled out of its tote bag to get me so pumped? A hell of a great Macintosh product, that's what.
Due to the nondisclosure agreement I signed, I can't tell you about the specifics of this great product. But I can tell you about my reactions to it.
First, make no mistake about it, this is a real Macintosh program, not a Windows-wannabe. Waldman said the goal of his group was to produce "a great Macintosh product for our Macintosh and cross-platform customers." They have. Microsoft Office 98 Macintosh Edition hits that bullet point dead-on. Unlike the current Mac Office, you will not see the Windows footprints muddying the interface.
Second, Mac Office 98 really does take advantage of your Power Mac. Marketing hype aside, Microsoft has "made significant enhancements to the appearance and behavior of applications," just like its news release claims. It supports Macintosh Drag and Drop, HTML file formats, WYSIWYG font menus, and the Apple Platinum Appearance specification. This is no lousy Windows port, my friends. With contextual menus, the ability to select Word 5.1 menus instead of Word 98 menus, and full support for the QuickTime Media Layer, Mac Office 98 is more Mac-like than any application that I've seen from Apple in the past two years.
The big question for Mac managers, however, is what happens after Mac Office 98 ships early next year. Will there be other equally excellent Mac apps coming from Microsoft that help tie Mac and Windows desktops? Will Microsoft allow its Mac Business Unit to produce signature Mac versions of important productivity apps like Access? These questions will need positive answers before Mac managers lose their natural skepticism about Microsoft's Macware. But Mac Office 98 is a big step in the right direction.
Don Crabb welcomes really nice, thoughtful comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out his Web page at http://www.doncrabb.com. Nasty, mean-spirited comments may be sent to email@example.com.