In conjunction with this week's Macworld 2010 conference, Microsoft is sharing more information about its Office for Mac 2011 product, due for release before the end of this year.
Microsoft officials announced in August 2009 that the company was working on a new version of its productivity suite for the Mac -- which has been christened Office 2011 for Mac, officials said on February 11. Last year, Microsoft officials said the new suite would include Outlook in place of the current Entourage mail client, support for Microsoft's information rights management (IRM) content protection, and support for Visual Basic.
On February 11, Microsoft made public more details about the forthcoming release, which is still due out before the end of 2010, officials reconfirmed today. The new release will add a Mac-customized version of Microsoft's Ribbon interface; support for the Personal Folders (.PST) e-mail archiving protocol; and the ability to co-author documents with others using SkyDrive and SharePoint.
Microsoft isn't making pricing, recommended system specs or a test build of the new suite available this week. (I asked whether the new release would support Apple's iPad, and was told "we are looking into the iPad though we having nothing firm to share at this time." Office Web Apps are supported on the iPhone already.)
Office for Mac 2011 is all about maintaining and improving compatibility with the Windows versions of Office, said Amanda Lefebvre, Senior Marketing Manager with Microsoft's Mac Business Unit. To that end, Microsoft is adding support for .PST. And the next Mac Office is getting the Ribbon interface like Office 2007 and Office 2010 include.
The Ribbon on the Mac version of Office isn't identical to the Windows Office one. According to Microsoft, the Mac Office 2011 Ribbon will be "an evolution of the Office 2008 Elements Gallery and uses the classic Mac menu and Standard Toolbar giving you the best of both worlds." For those who prefer keyboard shortcuts, the Mac Office Ribbon and toolbar will be collapsable/hideable.
Microsoft providing to Office for Mac 2011 users the same "co-authoring" tools that Windows Office users have -- specifically the ability to work with others on a single file directly from inside Office via SkyDrive or SharePoint. And because Microsoft's forthcoming Microsoft Office Web Apps (the Webified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote) are "browser-agnostic," Office for Mac 2011 users will be able to access them using Safari or Firefox on the Mac, said Mike Tedesco, Senior Product Manager with Microsoft's MacBU.
"Three quarters of our Mac users are using PCs on a regular basis," said Tedesco. "That's why we want to provide a consistent UI with the Ribbon," .PST, co-authoring tools and other functionality.
Microsoft is entering into a "very closed beta" with Office for Mac 2011, which it plans to broaden this summer, company officials said. Company officials aren't providing a release-to-manufacturing target date, other than to say the product will be on store shelves in time for the Holiday 2010 season.