Office 98 for Mac to ship before Win version

While the delivery date of Office 98 for Windows remains shrouded in mystery, Microsoft Corp. officials last week said the company will ship the Macintosh version of the suite by mid-1998.

The applications offered in the Office 98 Macintosh edition consist of Word 98, PowerPoint 98, Excel 98, Outlook Express and Internet Explorer. The product enhancements in-clude natural language extensions designed to make the software easier to use, Microsoft officials said.

Meanwhile, Office 98 for Windows was not yet in beta testing as of last month.

That's not unusual, said Andrew Dixon, Office product manager for the Redmond, Wash., company, since the upgrade is on a 24-month release schedule.

The release of Office 97 was a nightmare for Microsoft and users alike because of incompatibility problems with the previous version of the suite, Office 95.

To safeguard against another debacle, Microsoft has formed an Office Advisory Committee of corporate users who will provide feedback on the product.

However, Microsoft's precautions may be causing delays.

One source close to the company said that when the Windows version of the product is finally released, it won't be called Office 98, meaning delivery of the product has already slipped to 1999.