Microsoft yesterday lent a crutch to Apple with the announcement that it is to set up a 100-staff business unit dedicated to Macintosh application development. While critics pointed out that the move could be designed to win Big Green grace and favour with regulatory bodies, Microsoft insisted the move was a hard-nosed business decision.
The unit will concentrate on three areas of development: the Office suite of productivity applications; Internet Explorer; and the FrontPage Web authoring toolkit.
UK Office for Macintosh product manager Jonathan Hulse said a new version of the product will be available in the second half of the year. Like its Windows 95 sibling, the suite will have tight integration with the Web and animated help characters called Office Assistants. A full version of Internet Explorer for the Mac is expected later this week and FrontPage for the Mac will ship in April.
"Microsoft has been supporting the Mac platform for 15 years and it's still a very strong revenue stream for us, particularly on Office," Hulse said. "There's room for both Windows and Macintosh and the relationship with Apple has improved incredibly since Gil Amelio took over. He's very pragmatic and has brought in a breath of fresh air. We now have access to the Mac OS and to Apple developers. The Mac platform has dropped to about six or seven per cent in the UK but as long as there's demand we'll contunue to support it. Ten per cent of our R&D is still on Mac."