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Expo: Microsoft to enhance Entourage Exchange, SharePoint on the Mac

A quarter-century after it began making products for the Mac, Microsoft’s Macintosh Business Unit announced future updates to Microsoft Office that will enhance collaboration and sharing.

Entourage will get a makeover, at least under the hood. Microsoft will stop using the WebDAV protocol in favor of the Exchange Web Services—a change the company said would bring better compatibility, performance, and reliability. When using WebDAV, Entourage sends out up to six instructions when communicating with a server, but with Exchange it uses one.

The MacBU plans to release the Entourage update in late January as a public beta. The final release will come later this year and will be free for all Office 2008 users.

The second update to Office for Mac will give Mac users the ability to work with SharePoint Products and Technologies and Office Live Workspaces. With the help of a new application called the Document Collaboration Companion, Mac users will be able to download and upload documents, use document check-out/in, offline document caching, and SharePoint Workspace, Document Library, and Office Live Workspace.

Document Collaboration Companion—Microsoft’s first full Cocoa application—will debut as a private beta in February, with a final release slated for later this year.

By switching to the Exchange technology and giving users a collaboration application, Mac users would be able to work with shared documents and servers just as easily as their Windows counterparts, according to Eric Wilfrid, general manager of the MacBU.

“Compatibility has always been one of the biggest concerns for us,” Wilfrid told Macworld. “The question is always can Mac and Windows users work on the same team and share information?”

The moves by Microsoft fit into a strategy at the company to deliver software plus services on all platforms. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer talked about the company’s vision last October when he introduced the concept of the “Windows Cloud” as an operating system that would help developers write Internet-based applications. Last year, Microsoft announced plans for Office Web, a lightweight version of its Office suite that will run online; Office Web apps are expected to work with the Safari and Firefox Web browsers.

“These releases are the first step for the MacBU in harnessing the power of software plus services on the Mac,” said Wilfrid.

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