MS looks homeward with Mac Office

The company said it will market Office 2001 to the sort of home users Apple has targeted as the core of its business while soft-pedalling the "Microsoft" moniker

Microsoft and its Macintosh Business Unit have planned a significant showing for Wednesday's unveiling of Office 2001 for Mac.

According to Irving Kwong, product manager for the Macintosh Business Unit, Microsoft plans to emulate the consumer thrust of Apple Computer's recent marketing efforts. Kwong said Microsoft will aim the new version of the productivity suite more toward consumers than business users. In addition, the company will downplay the package's corporate image, the better to focus on Office 2001's Mac connections.

Kwong said that Microsoft noticed a shift toward the consumer market between the release of Office 4, which was licensed primarily to corporations, and Office 98, which found a sharp rise of customers in the consumer sector.

Kwong attributed this shift in demographics to the success of Apple's iMac and iBook computers: "Our business is highly reflective on where Apple is selling its products," Kwong said.

According to Kwong, research done by the Macintosh Business Unit found that many Mac users didn't even know that Microsoft made products for the Mac. "Macintosh users would walk by Office 98 and from the packaging immediately associate it with Windows," Kwong said.

As a result, Microsoft scrapped the lengthy "Microsoft Office 2001: Macintosh Edition" moniker in favor of the more simple "Office: Mac" name (which still introduces confusion, as it is read as "Office for Mac"). Kwong explained that Microsoft's goal with the name change is to tie the product more closely to the Mac name. "If you look at the logo itself, the prominence is both on the word Mac and on Office."

He also noted that the company is putting less emphasis on the word "Microsoft".

Office 2001 for Mac is also set apart from its Windows counterpart with new packaging, which consists of a translucent case that can be reused to store other CDs. However, this precludes the inclusion of a printed manual.

Kwong recalled one instance when Microsoft showed the new packaging to CompUSA. "They loved it," he said, primarily because it's "efficient and takes little shelf space".

Microsoft has also planned increased advertising in Mac-specific publications, major newspapers and business publications, Kwong said. To further stress the Mac nature of Office 2001 over its Microsoft nature, Kwong said, "We've featured real Mac users [in the ads] and have talked about what people can do with the Mac and Office together."

This Wednesday in San Francisco, Microsoft is holding an Office 2001 event at a local CompUSA retail location. The event will feature prominent industry figures demonstrating their support for Office -- there will also be a party with food, drinks and a live band. "We've put a lot more emphasis in retail marketing," Kwong said, adding that "the retail channel is very important to Office, and much more important to Mac users".

While Office 2001 began trickling into the retail channel in late September, the Wednesday event will mark the date when the suite will be broadly available across the country.

Although Office 2001 is neither Mac OS X-native nor Carbonised (written to take run on both Mac OS X and earlier versions of the Mac OS while taking advantage of the former's advanced features), Kwong said that Microsoft is "building a version of Office for OS X, and it's our next major release".

"There's a lot of work for us to do," he said, pointing out that Office contains 30 million lines of code.

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