Does Apple Still Need Microsoft Office?

MS_Office_2010_LogoOn August 6th, 1997, Steve Jobs stood on a stage in Boston and announced that Microsoft had purchased $150 million in non-voting stock and promised to continue to develop Office for five years. While the crowd reacted as if had he announced his love of Pabst Blue Ribbon, it’s one of the moves that’s widely regarded as having helped Apple recover as a company.

Microsoft recently announced its plans for Office 2010 — although the scant details make me think this was really just a “No, no, don’t go use the Exchange features in Snow Leopard; we’ve got you covered” move. Which begs the question: Does Apple still need Office for the Mac, like they did 12 years ago?

No, of course not. They have iWork and online services like Google Docs and Zoho. But I need it.

I can imagine myself staying in Apple’s Romper Room, only using iWork and iLife, only as long as I never, ever need to exchange files or collaborate with another person. Like it or not, Office and especially the .doc file structure has become the industry standard. The better I can adhere to that standard, without jumping through a ton of hoops, the easier my life is. Sure, I can print to PDF, but that’s hard to collaborate from.

That’s not to say I’m a slave to Microsoft. For simple layout I use Pages; Numbers is an acceptable spreadsheet; and Keynote is a totally kicking presentation program. When I write fiction, I use Scrivener. For my work at TheAppleBlog, I can use any sort of text editor I want. However, when I need to exchange files with other people — especially if I want them to make in-line comments or changes — I will default to the Office suite for the sake of simplicity, even for complicated files transfer without any noticeable issues between the PC and Mac versions of Word.

As much as I love hearing about Apple’s plans, and its commitment to OS X at keynotes, as a frequent user of Microsoft Office, in many ways I look forward to the affirmation that Office for the Mac’s development isn’t lagging too far behind its PC counterpart.

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