Microsoft outlines .Net plans for Mac

Microsoft says the move to .Net does not mean traditional users might face a world that forces them to change their work paradigm
Written by Daniel Turner, Contributor

Following his keynote at Macworld Expo in New York, Microsoft Macintosh Business Unit General Manager Kevin Browne has expounded his vision of how Microsoft's .Net strategy will affect Mac users.

"It's still early and this can still change, but this is the way I envision it," Browne said, as he explained that he doesn't see a day that the .Net concept of remote data storage and software-as-services would mean "you're not able to buy Office for Mac and to use it offline."

In other words, Browne said, the move to .Net would not mean traditional users might face a world that forces them to change their work paradigm.

Browne said that the current plan -- and this could change -- was for the MacBU to develop and offer two versions of Office. "You could buy the full-price, non-connected Office," he said, or a .Net version that would be less expensive initially and boast the "extra functionality" that .Net services would offer (just what those functions might be are still just general concepts at this stage). Microsoft has not yet announced what its pricing structure or revenue plans would be for .Net services.

As for where Microsoft currently stands in its road to .Net, Browne said that the project was perhaps approaching the end of its first stage, which would be the implementation of Hailstorm, Microsoft's initiative for providing a single log-in for individual users for a range of Web-related services. Privacy advocacy groups have expressed concern with Hailstorm, pointing to possible problems involved in handing over extensive personal information to Microsoft as well as allowing this data to be controlled by Microsoft.

Browne said that Hailstorm will be ready for beta-testing by the end of the year and will open to customers at some point next year. He added that, so far, Hailstorm development is on track.

Still, this wouldn't mean the MacBU could move instantly toward .Net services. "There's still a lot of infrastructure that needs to be built first before I can have an idea what I need to build on top of it," Browne said. He admitted that this could translate to some lag in .Net-based products for the Mac.

In addition, he said, it would be far less likely to see enterprise- and developer-targeted .Net projects, such as common-language runtimes, receive a high priority at the MacBU. "I'm more concerned about stuff that affects the user," he said.

In his keynote, Browne mentioned that Office 10, the next -- and Mac OS X-native -- version of the MacBU's prime product, would support only Mac OS X 10.1, which is slated for a September release. Asked why that version of the operating system, Browne said that the MacBU had identified "probably 20 to25 very specific fixes we wanted from Apple" in previous OS versions, "and they made them for us."

Specifically, he said, there had been problems surrounding printing and Quartz support.

Browne also acknowledged that his demonstration had included a bug, but one that few people noted. When displaying a document in Word 10, the Dock, Mac OS X's multipurpose launcher and program switcher, overlapped the bottom of the Word document, making certain controls inaccessible.

"That's a bug," Browne said. He explained that there are Dock awareness APIs in Carbon, the Mac OS X environment the new Office is being built under, and that the final version of Word 10 will sense the height of the Dock and scale the document window so that it does not overlap. Asked whether Quartz, the 2D display layer based on an open specification of Adobe System Inc.'s PDF technology, offered any bonuses for Office beyond the transparencies and anti-aliasing demonstrated in the keynote, Browne said he's "looking for Quartz to do two things. First, to improve the overall look, as with the anti-aliasing. Hopefully, it can also simplify our printing code."

As to whether he's seen the latter, Browne said it was still too early to tell. The MacBU was in the process of testing printing in Office.

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