Sometimes I feel like Microsoft keeps the Mac BU around just so it can mock and ridicule it. The unit never seems to get to join in the fun when it comes time to release a new iteration of Office. Not, at least, until well after its PC counterparts. The official line is that the development cycle for both products is always around two to three years, so the schedule dictates when new releases become available — which explains why we won’t be seeing Office 2010 until 2011. Regardless of cycles, Office for Mac is badly in need of an upgrade — right now.
I have Office 2008, but I can count the number of times I use it in one month on one finger. Whenever possible, I use Google Docs or Bean (an excellent freeware multiformat text editor for Mac) for any Word doc editing I may need to do, which is almost none now that I’ve left school and the corporate world behind. Even though a lot of people still depend on the format, as the number of Mac users grows, I suspect Office will continue to lose ground, especially if Microsoft continues to offer such seriously unpleasant Mac-specific software.
Sometimes I swear Office 2008 was just a ploy to get me to install Windows on a Boot Camp partition and run Office 2007. I find command and menu placement to be completely unintuitive and just plain awkward on the Mac version. Google Docs in an SSB seems like a natively designed OS X app by comparison.
Of course, a big part of the announcement of Office 2010 was the revelation of a suite of online apps, which theoretically should be accessible from any browser on any platform (unless MS pulls a classic IE-only block, which I don’t think it would for fear of inciting riots). So, Mac users will be able to join in on the fun, right? Not quite. The web portion of Office 2010, from what I gather from Microsoft’s press releases about the software, will complement and work together with the old-fashioned installed media portion. I think it’ll end up looking much more like iWork.com and iWork than Zoho Writer or Google Docs.
Microsoft, if you want to be a software company, be one. Clearly you think it makes business sense to develop for Mac, or the Mac BU wouldn’t exist (unless my conspiracy theories above are correct). If that’s the case, treat it as you would any other software, and build excitement by launching cross-platform products of consistent quality, all at once.