Microsoft targets Apple fans

Microsoft is introducing a slew of consumer-oriented products aimed at Mac users, including updated e-mail software that lets user synch up with their Palm Pilot and a new browser with special auction-related features.

The company also plans to release a new consumer version of Word for the Mac in August. Word 98 for the iMac, which will cost $99 (£60) after a rebate, will include 5,000 pieces of clip art, 100 greeting card templates, and it come with greeting card paper in the box, allowing people to create their own cards.

Microsoft unveiled features of Outlook Express 5.0 for the Mac, which will ship in the autumn. The messaging software will be easier to upgrade, contain integration with Hotmail, and let users synchronize their mail with their Palm Pilot. The software also will allow users to drag and drop attachments into their messages.

In addition, the new OE will have an improved, and less restrictive, junk mail filter. The new filter will move any message deemed junk mail to a separate folder so people can choose whether they want to throw it out. They also can change the filters sensitivity to junk mail by sliding an icon across a panel to make it extremely sensitive or not sensitive at all.

The company has come under fire for its filter in OE for Windows, which sometimes threw out messages deemed junk mail by the company's set of algorithms. Blue Mountain Arts Inc. sued the company for filtering its e-greetings into the trash, and a judge forced Microsoft to change its software.

In addition to OE and Word, Microsoft also plans to introduce IE 5.0 for the Mac in the fall. As it often does, Microsoft is releasing only a few details of the upcoming product. The new IE will have a feature geared toward auction users that will let people track their products. When activated, the feature will automatically notify users when they're outbid and when the auction is ending. The software also can grab the auction page and store a local copy for later reference. "We want to make the experience with OE the same simple, out-of-the-box experience you have with the iMac," Dick Craddock, manager of Microsoft's Macintosh Internet products unit, said.